Known for her beautiful sound and expressive playing, flautist Mika Putterman loves performing while sharing her passion for research and historical knowledge.
Artistic director and founder of Autour [...]
Certainly, [Friedrich Kuhlau’s] flute music is idiomatically written and beautifully crafted. Brahms was so impressed with the sonatas that he wrote to Clara Schumann in 1854 expressing a wish to learn the flute solely so he could perform Kuhlau’s works along with Clara at the piano.
Kuhlau’s “Grand Sonata for Fortepiano and Flute Obbligato” from 1825 (Op. 71) was dedicated to Joseph Sellner, professor of oboe at the Vienna Conservatorium from 1821 to 1838. A large-scale and luxuriously expansive work, this four-movement sonata in E minor shows the influence of Weber, Clementi, Dussek, and Cramer. By turns lyrical and virtuosic, the first movement divides its thematic material evenly between piano and flute before featuring the fl ute more as a solo instrument in the two middle movements. The final rondo’s rather pompous and martial flavour is attenuated at the close by a turn to the major, with appealing ornamental filigree.
The G major sonata from Op. 83 was published in 1827 and is the first of a set of three “grandes sonates.” The first sonata features outer movements with tight-knit and well-crafted formal structures reminiscent of Hummel; the slow movement is a set of variations on the melancholic Swedish folksong “Sorgens Magt” (Sad Girl).
In our approach to Kuhlau’s music, Mika and I were also inspired by scholars such as Bruce Haynes and Clive Brown, who underline the disparity between current Romantic performance that claims allegiance to historical performance practices and the actual evidence itself. Both Mika and I played from the original separate parts that were published at the time (no full score existed), and we both found that this encouraged us, occasionally, to treat each line as being expressively dislocated from the other. Lauded and condemned alike by commentators and performers at the time, extreme tempo modification was without a doubt a major characteristic of performance styles in the late 1820s and 1830s. In 1833 one writer observed that “ritardando and accelerando alternate all the time. This manner has already become so fixed in the minds of the musical public that they firmly believe a diminuendo must be slowed down and a crescendo speeded up; a tender phrase (e.g. in an allegro) will be performed more slowly, a powerful one faster.” Mika and I have tried to reproduce the nuanced advice relating to tempo modification given by Crelle (1823), Czerny (1839–1846), and many other sources. We understand that the results might be somewhat controversial; nonetheless, we present them here as the fruits of a committed and confident experimentation in Romantic-period performance practice.
Erin Helyard, © 2018