About this Recording
8.554748 - HOFMANN: Flute Concertos, Vol. 2
English 

Leopold Hofmann (1738-1793)

Leopold Hofmann (1738-1793)

Flute Concertos Vol. 2

 

Of all Haydn's Viennese contemporaries Leopold Hofmann was perhaps the most successful and popular composer of concertos. He wrote around sixty solo concertos during a twenty year period (ca 1758-1778) for a variety of instruments including thirteen for flute. Until very recently the only

Hofmann work to have been recorded was the Flute Concerto in D (Badley Dl) which for many years was passed off as a work by Joseph Haydn, The fact that Hofmann's authorship was established as early as 1933 made little or no difference' Haydn was well known; Hofmann was not. Now that Hofmann's reputation is a good deal more secure it seems very unlikely that this situation will continue, particularly in the light of the publication and recording of the composer's other flute concertos.

 

Hofmann's two earliest flute concertos cannot be identified and indeed may not survive; they are known only from their appearance in an inventory of music belonging to the Esterhazy family made around 1758. The thirteen extant concertos probably date from the 1760s although it is possible that at least a couple of works, including D1 and e1, were composed during the 1770s. Since his interest in composing flute concertos is impossible to reconcile either with his professional duties as a church musician or as a performer - Hofmann was a fine violinist and keyboard player - it seems likely that most if not all of the works were composed on commission, Unlike the chamber music for flute, which was clearly written with an eye to the amateur market, Hofmann's flute concertos give every appearance of having been written for professional players,

The solo parts are technically advanced and the orchestral writing is as demanding as that found in any of the composer's symphonies. None of the works was published in Hofmann's lifetime although their regular appearance in contemporary catalogues suggests that they were reasonably well known outside Vienna.

 

The survival of the majority of the concertos in a single collection - the Furst Thurn und Taxis'sche Hotbibliothek in Regensburg - argues strongly for some sort of connection between the composer and that particular court. Support for this view is strengthened further by the presence of a flute concerto score in autograph (G3) - the only extant Hofmann autograph for an instrumental work that we are aware of - which is otherwise completely unknown. Among the most prominent members of the princely musical establishment at Regensburg was the celebrated Florentine flautist, Florante Agostinelli. It was surely for Agostinelli that the concertos were purchased and it is possible that a number of the works -perhaps those for which no other sources or corroborative catalogue entries exist - were commissioned by him or for him.

 

Hofmann's flute concertos bear a strong familial resemblance to his other concertos in terms of form, style and structure. Their musical language is similar too and yet, as in the other works, the highly idiomatic quality of the solo writing lends them a very distinctive quality. The flute seems particularly well suited to Hofmann's musical language and perhaps his fascination with the instrument is evidence that he himself recognised this fact. The instrument's principal strengths are agility and delicacy of tone colour; it is capable of executing shimmering runs, fast passage work and the delicate, filigree ornamentation which is such an integral part of Hofmann's concerto style. The flute's softness of tone presents a number of challenges to the composer and Hofmann takes good care to ensure that the instrument is never masked by the orchestra even when playing in its low tessitura. The resulting lightness of style and clarity of texture make these courtly, elegant works perfect representatives of their time and place.

 

The four works on this recording are at once typical of Hofmann's flute concertos and at the same time strongly individual in character. D3 was advertised for sale in the Breitkopf Catalogue in 1767; it was probably composed at least a year or two earlier. Although only two copies of the work survive -one in Regensburg and one Prague – its appearance in both the Breitkopf Catalogue and the Ringmacher Catalogue (Berlin, 1773) suggests that it circulated fairly widely during the I8th century. The work's most unusual feature is the Tempo di Menuet finale otherwise unknown in Hofmann's flute concertos.

 

A significant number of Hofmann's works survive in a single source including many of the flute concertos. G3 presents a unique problem since only the autograph score is extant and there is no evidence from contemporary thematic catalogues that any other copies ever existed. What is even more remarkable, however, is that in the archive in which the autograph is preserved - the Furst Thurn und Taxis'sche Hofbibliothek in Regensburg - there are no performing parts- While it is possible that these did exist at some time and have been lost it must remain a possibility, however remote, that the work was never performed.

 

As so little autograph material by Hofmann survives it is impossible to reach any firm conclusions regarding his use of different paper types - Nonetheless, the papers used in the score of G3 come as something of a surprise; two types are found: one bearing the watermark of Lauterbach b. Bregenz (commonly in use during the period ca 1757-1780); the other A. Steinhauser (ca 1757-1798) - The use of these papers points to Hofmann being out of Vienna at the time he composed G3; he even may have visited Regensburg around this time and presented - or sold - the autograph score to the court before its existence was known elsewhere The paper types give no useful clue as to the work's composition date although the score itself provides one hint- Hofmann heads the score "Concerto per il flauto Traverso ex g Da Leopoldo Hoffmann D:S:M:"; the spelling of the composer's surname suggests a relatively early composition date as he adopted the spelling "Hofmann" around the late-1760s. It would be safe to conjecture then that the work was probably written in the early to mid-1760s. Textually, the score is also revealing. Although it stands absolutely complete in every

detail it shows signs of revision. The second solo in the first movement, for example, is shortened by several fully-scored sequential legs before the re-entry of the orchestra in Ritomello 3. Similarly, the finale originally had provision for a cadenza but the three bars leading up to the cadential 6/4 - and three concluding bars -have been heavily scored out. Hofmann signed off the score with the dedication P:[?]A: M: D: G1: ("To the Greater Glory of God") which is also present on an autograph contrafactum part in a setting of the Salve Regina.

 

Like the Flute Concertos D2, D5, and G3, all of which survive in a single copy in Regensburg, D4 was not advertised in the Breitkopf Catalogue. The possibility exists that all four concertos were acquired by the Thurn und Taxis court directly from the composer or his agent. A basso ripieno part - i.e. a part with only the tutti sections written out - is included in the set (as is also the case with G1 and G4 in this collection), indisputable evidence that the orchestral forces were frequently reduced in the solo sections; the soloist was probably accompanied by either a single player or one desk per part.

 

The Flute Concerto in E minor is the only minor-key instrumental work of Hofmann to survive. Advertised in the Breitkopf Catalogue in 1781 it was probably written some years earlier. Although only a single copy of the concerto survives, a version in D minor for oboe is preserved in two other sources; one of these copies once belonged to the oboist Joseph Triebensee who was employed by the Schwarzenberg family and played with great success in Vienna. Like many of the composer's other flute concertos, the sole-surviving copy of e1 is in the possession of the Furst Thurn und Taxis'sche Hofbibliothek in Regensburg. The horn parts, although effective enough, are almost certainly spurious. They are a later addition to the set of parts; they are not mentioned in the Breitkopf

Catalogue; nor do they appear in either of the two extant versions for oboe. Although the beautiful slow movement of e1 is part of the expressive landscape familiar to us from the other concertos, the driving intensity of the finale reveals an entirely different side to Hofmann's art, one we can only regret he did not pursue further.

 

Dr, Allan Badley

 

 

 

 


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