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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 music.

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.


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