Robert Aitken Records Johann Stamitz Flute Concertos in Vilnius
From June 22nd to June 24th, 2006 Robert Aitken recorded four flute concertos by Johann Stamitz [1717-1757] with the St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra conducted by Donatus Katkus. The sessions took place at St. Catherine’s Church in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and were produced by Tim Handley. Below is a short report on the sessions from Bob Aitken.
Bob Aitken Session Report
I arrived in Vilnius on June 14th and we
rehearsed four days for a concert on June 20th. The concert was very
successful with many VIPs in attendance, a number of ambassadors and even
the Cardinal for Lithuania. It was the first time in my life that I played
four concerti in the same concert.
Tim arrived that night but too late for the event so I was very appreciative
about his reactions to the recording space. Originally the recording was to
take place at the Philharmonic Hall, then the Academy and finally a church
which they highly recommended. However, the concert and recording took place
in yet another church which I felt was far too reverberant with too much
street noise. To my surprise, Tim thought it was an excellent space, just
the type of acoustic he preferred to work in, so we began. The street sounds
were problematic but we worked around it by recording the slow movements and
cadenzas at night. Later I discovered the orchestra has leased this famous
old landmark for 30 years to be their permanent home.
We recorded four hours each day and with Tim's urgent prodding easily
recorded all in four days. The humidity in the church caused me problems
with sticky keys, but otherwise I was pleased with how I performed, even the
seven cadenzas I had to compose.
And Tim Handley was a joy to work with. He kept everything moving and always
used the right psychology for any awkward situations. The orchestra began
playing in a more "Baroque style" than I was prepared for but little by
little they softened their ways and in the end, I think we all agreed the
slight contrast between their approach and mine worked to the advantage of
The concerti themselves were very interesting and by no means easy. I think
it will be a surprise to most listeners, especially flutists, to hear what
fabulous and inventive music Johann Stamitz composed. To my knowledge only
two were recorded before on LP. The C Major by Rampal and one D Major by
James Galway on one of his earliest recordings. And this concerto according
to knowledgeable sources was falsely credited to his son Carl. Johann
apparently wrote 13 concerti for flute, counting arrangements of violin
concerti. I now have manuscripts for eight, all very interesting. The four
we recorded were in G Major, two in D Major and the longest one, about 20
minutes, in C Major. The two in D Major required two horns.