Robert Stallman

Mozart - Stallman: New Quintets for Flute & Strings

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By "new quintets" flutist Robert Stallman means newly made, not newly discovered. The program here consists of three Mozart sonatas for piano four hands, transcribed and adapted for flute and strings. The quartet of strings used is the odd combination of violin, two violas, and cello. Stallman ruminates at length in the booklet (in English only) about the process of transferring the four-hand sonatas to this medium, dwelling less on specific technical issues than on the idea that if you immerse yourself in Mozart long enough, you learn to think like him a little bit. Be that as it may, the job is well done, and nothing here would lead an uninformed-beforehand listener to distinguish these versions from similar Mozart transcriptions made by Franz Anton Hoffmeister and numerous other composers during and a bit after Mozart's time. The reason for the extra viola is that the mid-range is the easiest place to sneak in an extra voice where that's necessary. The sonatas are expansive but not dense, oriented neither toward beginners nor toward serious pianists; they are fairly long, and they give an audience something to chew on, but they have clear melodic lines that are generally taken here by the flute. It's a bit unclear why Stallman devotes so much space to the problem of adding a "fifth voice" to the sonatas for a quintet, for the four-hand sonatas certainly don't involve just one finger playing on the part of each of the four hands. Yet the basic simplicity of the textures allows Stallman to pull off the task he has set himself, which certainly wouldn't have been unfamiliar to a composer employed by a Viennese publisher in 1790 or so. Conceived in the U.S., the project was recorded in Prague, with the Martinu Quartet delivering pleasingly relaxed readings on conventional instruments. The end result is a disc that can be heard either as the occasional music for which it would have been taken by audience of the late eighteenth century, or more closely by those who wish to ponder Mozart's voicing and voice-leading.

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