Sunday 14 July 2013

A glorious disc of 20th century works for flute and piano from Anne-Catherine Heinzmann and Thomas Hoppe on Audite

Audite  have just released a recording by Anne-Catherine Heinzmann (flute) and Thomas Hoppe (piano) of works for flute and piano by twentieth century composers. This is a timely release given that it includes the Sonatine pour Flüte et Piano by Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) who sadly died in May this year,  and the Sonate by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)  who died 50 years ago. These works are coupled with the Sonata by Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), the Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 14 by Robert Muczynski (1929-2010) and the Ballade pour Flûte et Piano by Frank Martin (1890-1974)

Anne-Catherine Heinzmann, one of the most renowned German flautists of her generation, studied with Professor Jean-Claude Gerard in Stuttgart, Professor Jeanne Baxtresser in New York and Professor Michael –Martin Kofler in Salzburg. Since winning national and international prizes she has appeared at many concert halls and international festivals. In chamber music she has collaborated with such artists as Aurèle Nicolet, Leonard Hokanson, Miriam Fried, Erik Schumann and Gustav Rivinius. In 1999 she became co-principal flute of the Opernn und Museumsorchester Frankfurt am Main and is a member of the Trio Charoica.

Thomas Hoppe  studied with Agathe Wanek in Mainz before going to the United States to study with Lee Luvisi. He was the first recipient of the Samuel Sanders Memorial Award at the Juilliard School of Music. He performs frequently with instrumentalists and singers in the U.S. and in Europe and has performed with such eminent artists as Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Antje Weithaas, Mihaela Martin, Stefan Milenkovich, Jens Peter Maintz, Alban Gerhardt and Frans Helmerson. As pianist of the ATOS Trio he performs throughout the world.

Francis Poulenc worked on his Sonate (1952-1957) for a number of years, completing it in Canne. The renowned flautist, Jean-Pierre Rampal, gave the first performance with the composer. The flowing opening of the Allegretto malincolico belies any difficulties. Anne-Catherine Heinzmann gives some really fluent playing in this fast changing movement, moving from passionate and lively to quiet and beautiful.  There are some fine piano passages to which Thomas Hoppe contributes much. Heinzmann has a lovely, pure tone in the flowing Cantilena, with sensitive accompaniment from Thomas Hoppe. Heinzmann draws so many colours from her flute as she moulds this gorgeous movement. The frantic Presto giocoso provides playing of flair, panache and great style, always maintaining a lovely tone, even in the more forceful passages. These two musicians make a fine duo, always sensitive to each other.

Paul Hindemith’s Sonata was written in 1936, a bad year for Hindemith.  After the rise to power of the Nazis his position became more and more difficult with, in 1936, a final ban issued for the performance of his works. This led to his emigration, initially to Switzerland, and subsequently to the United States where in 1946 he acquired American nationality. It was in the U.S. that the Sonata was first performed.

As soon as the first movement, marked Heiter bewegt, opens, Hindemith’s harmonically distinctive sound world is evident; the joy is still there, tempered by a sometimes ambivalent feel. Heinzmann never misses an opportunity to draw on the textural and harmonically shifting emotions, again colouring the music exceptionally well. There is a strangely withdrawn and isolated feel to the sehr langsam slow movement. How finely these players gently move this music along as it becomes more desperate and passionate before falling back to the gentle music of the opening. There is a terrific Sehr lebhaft finale with such fine playing from both artists in a movement that seems to finally throw off the underlying tension.

Henri Dutilleux   – Sonatine pour Flüte et Piano (1943) is a work that the composer didn’t want us to hear. Such was his self-criticism that he classed all of his works prior to the end of the Second World War as preparations or exercises. Yet his little Sonatine is a delightful piece with an almost improvisatory opening, so free is it in its flow and invention. As it progresses there are some lovely touches beautifully played by Heinzmann and Hoppe. The second movement, that follows without a break, is connected to the first movement by a cadenza before the piano enters. The flute continues to dominate with some lovely passages complete with arabesques. These two players are terrific in this movement playing with such sensitivity. The music runs straight into a fast moving finale with some spectacularly good playing from Heinzmann in the weaving of the various themes. There is another solo flute section before the tempo slowly increases to a sparkling coda.

I hadn’t heard the name Robert Muczynski before. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Muczynski was a composer and pianist who studied with the exiled Russian composer, Alexander Tcherepnin. His Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 14 is certainly an attractive work. There is a striking rhythmic opening to the allegro Allegro Deciso, full of energy, if pent up at times. Heinzmann and Hoppe provide some lovely crisp rhythms in some great playing. The Scherzo follows, giving no respite to the performers, rushing ahead as it does. Rhythmically this is also a challenging movement. The solo flute opens the Andante in a lovely flowing melody before the piano enters to take up the theme. As the theme is developed it tries to rise to a more passionate level but it doesn’t succeed, ending quietly.  The lively Allegro con molto pushes ahead with varying strident and quieter moments. There is a terrific cadenza for solo flute, with more great playing from Heinzmann, before the music hurtles to the coda.

Frank Martin’s Ballade pour Flûte et Piano (1939) is often known in its version for flute, string orchestra and piano, rather than the original for flute and piano as heard here. It was written as a compulsory competition piece for the first Geneva International Music Competition. The work opens in a very distinctive Martin way, with a kind of slow unstoppable rhythmic plod before speeding to a small climax. After a brief moment the music surges ahead before an extended solo passage for flute. The music then builds up a real head of steam as it heads to the formidable coda with some pretty spectacular playing from both artists.

This is a glorious disc that works so well as a recital to play right through. The recording from the famous Jesus Christus Kirche, Berlin-Dahlen, the venue for so many great recordings of the past, is first rate, proving to be as good for small scale forces as it is for choral and orchestral recordings. Audite are certainly celebrating their 40th anniversary in style with another fine recording.

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