The title of the record emphasizes the role of the flute in the repertoire, while at the same time makes references to the brillante style, which developed in piano music in the first half of the 19th century. Its distinguishable features can be found in the works presented on this record. The brillante style grew out of the tradition of the keyboard music of C. Ph. E. Bach and W. A. Mozart, and its main representatives were J. N. Hummel, C. M. von Weber, J. Field, F. Kalkbrenner, Z. Thalberg and F. R. Ries. A significant factor which enabled its development were the improvements in the construction of the grand piano, which allowed for the performing of masterly figurations and passages. The rise of the brillante was described by J. Chominski and K. Wilkowska-Chominska in the following way:
As the name itself suggests, it was characterized by the brilliance of play with bringing to the fore the difficulties regarding performance and technique. It was created by virtuosos of the grand piano, who wished to show off with their play. The style was developing in the early decades of the 19th century, which was the time when the affluent bourgeoisie extended the group of eager viewers and listeners. Many a time did the performances of the competing virtuosos resemble modern sports competitions. The play of the artists was evaluated from two points of view: the technical skilfulness and the ability to conduct cantilena.
The basic features of the brillante style were therefore the presence of brilliant figurations and cantilena sections. The style also brought about some changes to the formal conception of the works. The typical phenomenon was, for example, the reversal of the classical characteristics of the themes of the sonata form: in the brillante, the first theme was often characterized by cantilena and the second by figuration. The second theme could have been just as well omitted or marginalized. It could have also been the case that both themes were cantilena and the figuration penetrated the remaining elements of the form, particularly the complex transition parts. In the development, masterly piano figures often appeared instead of the thematic work and extensive modulations. Such musical forms as rondo, variations, dances, fantasias and études were also written in the brillante. Many a time did the composers emphasize the affinity to the style in the title by the addition of the adjective, brillante (Italian) or brilliant (French).
Many brillante works are characterized by the loosening of the rhythmical structure resulting from the introduction of ornamental figures with various rules regarding the division. The homophonic texture with clear division into the layer of melody and accompaniment was also common. The melody led by the right hand differed then from the figurative background, which was often a sort of transformation of the Alberti bass. Another significant feature was the frequent use of the upper end of the piano scale to present the melodic layer and figurations. The result was the impression of lightness and brilliance of sound.
The brillante style was manifested not only in the soloist piano literature, but also in the chamber works with the grand piano part. In all the works included on this recording the piano’s role is not the typical accompaniment role, but the role of the equivalent or even the dominant partner of the flute (also the cello in C. M. von Weber’s Trio in G minor). Masterly elements of the brillante appear in parts of all the instruments. In the case of the flute and with reference to the “old” pre-Boehm flute oscillating virtually on the verge of impracticability (fast passages in uncomfortable flat keys, fast changes of the register, extreme sounds in the upper end).
In the first half of the 19th century the transverse flute was fashionable in the aristocratic circles as well as among the musical bourgeoisie. Playing this instrument brought fame to the virtuosos travelling around Europe, which included, among others:
Friedrich Ludwig Dulon (1769 – 1826), Louis Drouet (1792 – 1873), Jean Louis Tulou (1786 – 1865), Charles Nicholson (1795 – 1837), Anton Bernhard Fürstenau (1792 – 1852).
At the turn of the 19th century the one-keyed flutes were still in common use, and flutes with a different number of keys only just started to grow in popularity. Suffice it to say that Méthode de Flûte du Conservatoire (A. Hugot, J. G. Wunderlich), the official coursebook of the the Paris Conservatorie, published in 1804 was dedicated to the flute with one key (described by the authors as a normal flute) or (alternatively) for the flute with four keys.
Technical difficulties and expression requirements which were brought by the music written on the threshold of the Romantic era made the one-keyed flute insufficient for the orchestral musicians and soloists – the virtuosos of this instrument. This process is accurately described by the quotation from A. B. Fürstenau’s Flötenschule op. 42 (1826):
The use of the old, one-keyed flute does not allow to overcome the difficulties posed by the contemporary music, and especially by the solo pieces; every educated ear can hear that it is actually impossible to play this imperfect instrument entirely clearly and in the equalised pitch (…) The imperfection of the old instruments reveals itself most often in trills and passages, as only few trills can be played properly while some cannot be played at all. Passages on a one-keyed flute can be performed well in G major and in D major, but even more flagrant is the imperfection of this instrument in the more spectacular and characteristic of the flute major keys: E, A, F, B flat, E flat, A-flat and minor keys: B, C-sharp, F-sharp, C, F. All those and other numerous flaws, which I am not going to enumerate, have now been successfully overcome by the keys added to the flute. We currently have the instrument which we can play clearly and beautifully, as long as we can deal with it, and which allows us to overcome the greatest difficulties.2
The transverse flutes in the first half of the 19th century varied in terms of the number and the shape of the keys added. They also varied in terms of other details of construction (the bore and the type of wood, the shape of the embouchure hole, the size of the tone holes, the different metal fillings of the head joint, etc.). They shared, however, one thing: all the improvements were made on the basis of the old one-keyed conical bore flute.
A radical breakthrough in the history of the flute was only the invention of Theobald Boehm, that is the prototype of the contemporary transverse flute, which broke ties with the traditional constructions. However, it only became more popular in Europe in the 1840s.
In can be therefore stated that the entire rich, although today largely forgotten, masterly flute repertoire from the first thirty years of the 19th century could not be fully performed by means of the perfect, in the modern sense of the word, Boehm flute.
The Boehm flute was, after all, not widely accepted by all the flautists, and the old-style flutes with the different number of keys were used by many orchestras even at the beginning of the 20th century.
One of the outspoken opponents of the Boehm’s invention was Anton Bernhard Fürstenau, who claimed that the sweet sound and timbre diversity of the “traditional” flute are more valuable and more “romantic” than the significant force and monotonous levelling of the sound characteristic of the Boehm flute. In his flute school, Die Kunst des Flötenspiels in theoretisch practischer Beziehung op.138 (1844) Fürstenau wrote:
The entire reform and transformation of the instrument can be seen nowadays in the construction of the flute developed by the royal Bavarian musician Th. Boehm, which needs to be described here in more detail. There is no denying the fact that Mr Boehm’s flute has many advantages, including the ease with which the sound is made and the clear pitch of all the keys. However, whether the levelling of the sound, which eliminated all the differences between the so-called covered and the remaining notes, as well as the incredible force of the sound, which it has, can be counted as an advantage for the instrument, is questionable, because those two features, which conditionally may deserve praise, deprive the flute of its distinctive features. The first, that is the great levelling of the sound, results in the monotony of the flute, since its hitherto specific charm and the ability to express and arouse feelings lay mainly in the changing of the bright and dim, as well as in the usually wonderful resonant sound of the frequently used covered notes, the daring force of the sound, which apart from that (especially in the diameter) also has something sharp and cutting. That resulted in the sacrifice of the most specific feature of the flute, its sweetly gentle character, which inclined towards the pure Nature and towards the idyll and delicate glow (…)
Mr Boehm’s flute may be used in a big room and by a performer who cares more about the bewildering and ear-splitting passages than about the beautiful and expressive melody. It offers as little actual musical benefit as the invention of the chromatic horn, which managed to achieve the great levelling of the sound at the cost of the proper charm and the truly romantic character.3
The high point of Fürstenau’s fame in Europe falls on the first thirty years of the 19th century, that is on the time, from which the compositions on this recording come from. It cannot be ruled out that one of them could have featured in his repertoire. It is known for sure that he knew Hummel and Kuhlau personally, and kept particularly close ties with Weber, whom he accompanied while he was terminally ill in London in 1826.
In the above quoted flute school Fürstenau claimed that the best, in every respect, are the flutes of Wilhelm Liebel (1793-1871) from Dresden.
The instrument used for this recording was made from granadilla wood in 2011 by Rudolf Tutz according to one of the original Liebel’s flutes. It consists of three parts: the head joint, the body with C, G-sharp and B flat keys, the foot with two F keys, with a D-sharp key and keys for C-sharp and C. The optimum tuning for it is about a’=430 Hz.