About this Recording
8.554747 - HOFMANN: Flute Concertos, Vol. 1

Leopold Hofmann (1738-1793)

Flute Concertos Vol. 1

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. 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 Esterházy family made around 1758. The thirteen extant concertos probably date from the 1760s although it is possible that at least a couple of the works 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 Hofmann's many chamber works for flute which were clearly written with an eye to the large amateur market, his flute concertos may well have been composed for professional players. Certainly there is nothing in the structural layout of the works or in the style of orchestral writing that is in any way different from his other concertos, including those written for his own use. None of the works was published in Hofmann's lifetime although their 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 Fürst Thurn und Taxis'sche Hofbibliothek in Regensburg - argues 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.

Of the four concertos on this recording D1 is easily the best known. Ironically, it owes its modest fame to a misattribution to Haydn which has been perpetuated by publishers and performers for over two hundred years. The rather chequered historical career of the work can be traced to an error in Supplement VI (1771) of the Breitkopf Catalogue where it is attributed to Haydn. The attribution was corrected in Supplement XIV (1781) and it is unlikely that the error had a great impact on the dissemination of manuscript copies as the Ringmacher Catalogue correctly attributed D1 to Hofmann as early as 1773. If anything, one might have expected a greater number of copies to have survived if the work was thought to be by Haydn. Only one manuscript, preserved in the Exner collection at Zittau, has come down to us as a 'Haydn' work and yet, in spite of the incorrect attribution and the absence of horn parts, this copy seems to have been the authority for most modern editions. A copy of D1 (as Haydn) appeared in Breitkopf und Härtel's Versteigerungskatalog of 1836 (Nr.1022) and Pohl mentioned this copy in his handwritten notes on Haydn preserved in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien. D1 attracted the attention of a number of scholars over the years but the question of Haydn's authorship was not finally settled until 1933 when the English scholar Carleton Sprague-Smith discussed the background to the long confusion over authorship in an article published in Music Quarterly and based his conclusion on the later, corrected entry in Breitkopf. Smith appears to have been unaware of any extant copies of the work attributed to Hofmann. In addition to the Zittau 'Haydn' source and a C major version of the work for oboe preserved in the Bartók Béla Zenemuvészeti Szakiskila Könyvtár in Budapest, only two copies of D1 are known: the first of these is preserved in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the second in the Thurn und Taxis'sche Hofbibliothek in Regensburg. Both copies agree in most details although the Berlin source contains a number of glaring errors in the orchestral parts. If the order in which Hofmann's flute concertos appeared in the Breitkopf Catalogue is in any way accurate then D1, along with G4 (1772) and el (1781) is probably one of the later works. It is certainly conceived on a larger scale than some of the other concertos and the complexity of the first movement and the symphonic sweep of the finale bring to mind works like the brilliant Cello Concerto in D (Badley D3) which was probably composed in the early 1770s for Joseph Weigl.

Little is known about the three remaining works on this recording save that they were listed for sale in the Breitkopf Catalogue in 1769 along with two further flute concertos, G1 and A1. The survival of all five works in Regensburg suggests that they may have been acquired as a set. G2 is also preserved in a copy in the Narodní Muzeum in Prague and D6, minus horns, in Stift Kremsmünster; the work is also listed in the Ringmacher Catalogue.

Dr. Allan Badley

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