Reviews of HLM Mozart recording
W. A. Mozart in Prague. Zofie Vokálková,
flute; Kathleen Scheide, organ. Recorded in St. Wenceslas Church, Prague. HLM Classics CD HLMC 004.
Sometimes a good recording can be overlooked simply because at first sight it seems too obscure
for anyone to take any notice of it. W. A. Mozart in Prague is a good example of this, consisting as it does
of a bunch of relatively obscure Mozart pieces, transcribed for solo flute and accompanied on a little-known one-manual organ
in Prague. Do not let its apparent obscurity put you off, however, for this CD is an absolute gem.
performers are college professors -- Mrs. Vokálková-Srámková at the Prague Conservatory in the
Czech Republic, and Dr. Scheide at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The organ used in the recording
is a one-manual and pedal instrument of thirteen ranks, built around the turn of the twentieth century. The church in
which it is situated -- St. Wenceslas, Prague -- has a good acoustic, with a reverberation period, I would say, of two or
three seconds. The instrument has a pleasant though gentle chorus from 8' Principal to 3-rank Mixture, together with
some interesting strings, including a rare two-rank 4' Wox [ sic ] Angelica. At one or two points it is difficult
to know that the flute is not being accompanied by a real string orchestra. The flutes -- an 8' Kryt (= Czech for Gedeckt)
and a 4' Flétna -- are the perfect foil to Mrs. Vokálková-Srámková's flute-playing, having
a slightly gentler tone and a slightly quintier timbre that contrasts well with the solo instrument. Unlikely as it
might at first seem, it would be difficult to conceive of a better instrument on which to have made this recording.
Dr. Scheide is therefore to be congratulated not only on her impeccable organ playing, but for having found an outstanding
flute player to accompany, for having found the ideal organ to accompany on, and for having produced many of the quite wonderful
transcriptions that are to be found on this CD.
The combination of flute and organ is an interesting
one for Mozart, as the CD leaflet notes. The organ -- the "King of Instruments" -- was Mozart's favorite instrument,
but he almost invariably improvised on the organ, and pretty much all of what he played on the instrument in now lost.
On the other hand, Mozart loathed and despised the flute, yet some of his finest surviving compositions were written for it.
One of my favorite Mozart work s is the Concertante for Flute and Harp (KV 299) -- and this in spite of the fact
that he hated both instruments!
Mozart did not actually leave
any compositions for flute and organ, which is why all the works on this CD are transcriptions. The CD commences with
the Sonata in B-flat, which was originally written by Mozart at the age of eight for "clavecin" and flute
or violin, and was dedicated to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of England. Next follows the Andante in
F, originally written for a rather screechy little two-rank clock-organ. This is one of the better-known
works on the CD -- at least to me.
Despite the title of the CD -- W. A. Mozart in Prague
-- the recording includes three minuets from Der Morgen und der Abend by Mozart's father Leopold. These
were also originally written for a mechanical clock-organ -- although in this case for the very grand one at the Hohensalzburg
Fortress. After this it is back to Wolfgang Amadeus with the Andante in C, originally a work for flute and
orchestra. Another interesting work is the Rondo in C, first published as a piece for violin and orchestra.
Zofie Vokálková-Srámková then gets a rest from her flute playing
while Dr. Scheide plays the Sonata in B-flat on the organ alone. Once again this is a piece originally written for
mechanical clock-organ, though Mozart then published it as a piano duet, now transcribed back once more by Dr. Scheide for
the organ. The solo flute returns in the Adagio in C, originally written for the celebrated eighteenth-century
blind musician Marianne Kirchgässner to perform on the glass armonica. In this piece Kathleen Scheide makes very
effective use of the tremolo in her accompaniment. The final piece on the CD is probably the best-known piece found
here, the Andante and Fugue in A minor-Major. This fugue, surely one of Mozart's finest, is a fitting end
to the CD.
My advice is to save this compact disc for moments of depression. It is a
recording to lift the spirits, and nobody could possibly feel sad while listening to it. I thoroughly recommend it.
This review by John Speller, St. Louis, first appeared in the July 2004 issue of The Diapason, pgs.
W. A. MOZART
IN PRAGUE. Žofie Vokálková, flute, and Kathleen Scheide, organ. I/11 Žižkov organ (ca. 1900),
St. Wenceslas Church, Prague. HLM Recordings HLMC-0004.
This pair, who tour extensively as Due Solisti, here present both Wolfgang
and Leopold Mozart’s works. The ensemble is closely recorded, and there is a true sense of “presence.”
For a small instrument and a modest organ, both the flute and the organ loom large sonically. Registration is, however,
tasteful, as is the entire performance. Balance is carefully preserved throughout. All of the pieces are transcriptions,
since Mozart wrote no original pieces for flute and organ. It is fortunate that both of these performers are active
faculty members; it is assured that their talents will be entrusted to others and thus to a degree preserved. This is
elegant chamber music at its best, and for Mozartians especially, this collection is highly desirable.
This review by Paul
Aldridge first appeared in The American Organist, June 2005, p. 79