Voices to recordings

Giorno e Notte”, recorder concerts by Antonio Vivaldi

Con­rad Stein­mann, one of the most dis­tin­guished recorder play­ers of our time, took on some of the Italian’s flute con­cer­tos — based on rather the­o­ret­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. As the musi­cian writes in the book­let, he was inspired to his idio­syn­crat­ic exam­i­na­tion of some of Vivaldi’s flute works by a trea­tise by the Ital­ian Bar­tolole­mo Bis­man­to­va (1667), in which, among oth­er things, the recorder fam­i­ly is dealt with in detail, a rar­i­ty if one con­sid­ers the gen­er­al­ly fall­en impor­tance of the recorder in ear­ly Baroque. In this ‘Com­pen­dio Musi­cale’ we were talk­ing not only about a ‘flau­to ital­iano’, a three-part flute (in the tra­di­tion­al tun­ing tone g´), but also about a flute tuned on d´ . Based on the assump­tion that Vival­di might have had recorders with dif­fer­ent tun­ings in mind (and at his dis­pos­al), Stein­mann start­ed to record some of Vivaldi’s works on dif­fer­ent instru­ments. On this CD, one can hear won­der­ful­ly how dif­fer­ent the sound results are. The expe­ri­enced flutist is sup­port­ed by two vio­lins, vio­la and con­tin­uo sec­tion (dou­ble bass, lute and harpsichord).

Infused with joy

If one lis­tens to the first sec­onds of this record­ing, one could assume that a work by Mauri­cio Kagel has got­ten lost on this CD. Stein­mann and his com­pan­ions take the lib­er­ty of sim­ply impro­vis­ing. Sounds and small play­ing fig­ures are sim­ply tried out. And one is hard­ly sur­prised at this strange begin­ning, then the won­der­ful sound vari­ety of the A minor con­cer­to (RV 108) comes to the fore. Imme­di­ate­ly after the first bars it is clear that this record­ing can hard­ly be sur­passed in trans­paren­cy, joy of play­ing and verve. Stein­mann turns every capri­ole of Vival­di into a real plea­sure, the idiomat­ic way of writ­ing is brought to bear by play­ful wit and sub­tle phras­ing. The dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is not only evi­dent in small dynam­ic gra­da­tions, but also in micro­scop­ic agog­ic lib­er­ties, which have noth­ing to do with man­ner­ism, but with soul­ful, fiery music-mak­ing. Alle­gri are just as suc­cess­ful as Lar­gi with­out sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty, in which con­tra­pun­tal finesse is savoured in long overbind­ings and short dis­so­lu­tions. In all this, the ‘accom­pa­ni­ment’ plays any­thing but a sub­or­di­nate role. The some­what brit­tle vio­lin sounds, the extra­or­di­nar­i­ly mul­ti-lay­ered lute accom­pa­ni­ment and the in every respect per­fect arrange­ment of the harp­si­chord part do not result with the con­cer­to flute in a sum of indi­vid­ual parts, but in a trans­par­ent, rich­ly formed whole.
This record­ing also meets the high­est demands in terms of sound real­iza­tion. Opti­mal bal­ance between flute and ensem­ble, excel­lent bal­ance with­in the ensem­ble and an incred­i­ble trans­paren­cy of sound make this CD a true event (as well as oth­er record­ings of the Swiss label DIVOX).

Out of the grey area of prejudice

After enjoy­ing this pro­duc­tion, one can once again cite Stravinsky’s dic­tum that Vival­di wrote one and the same con­cert 300 times as proof to the con­trary. Because espe­cial­ly in the lit­tle details worked out here, there is an unusu­al wealth of detail.
One can only advise every read­er to buy this CD. Because here you are deal­ing with a pro­duc­tion of one piece. Both the fab­u­lous­ly trans­par­ent sound, the immense play­ful­ness and the pure joy of mak­ing music make this ‘day and night’ over­writ­ten record­ing a feast for the sens­es. (Tobias Pfleger in: Toccata)


Peter Bichsel on the solo CD “Echo

In search of the sound, in search of the lost melody, of the lost time.
The search for the lost melody — his Greek aulos flutes, recon­struct­ed by Paul J. Reich­lin — has to do with his­to­ry, with music his­to­ry only exter­nal­ly. He makes the imag­in­able music of the Greeks present. His tones are a cat­e­gor­i­cal now. Only in mem­o­ry, min­utes or hours after lis­ten­ing do they become mem­o­ries. In mem­o­ry of a per­for­mance of Greece.
But when I lis­ten to it, its tones have a pre­cise pres­ence — that is the tone I hear right now. That may seem obvi­ous, but it is a banal obser­va­tion. But Con­rad Stein­mann makes me aware of it. Music is now — now, exact­ly now it is tak­ing place.

CD “Symposion” with the Ensemble Melpomen

On Sun­day in the Augustin­erkirche, Con­rad Stein­mann and his ensem­ble Melpomen also aimed in the same direc­tion: for 15 years the recorder play­er has been research­ing Greek music from the 5th cen­tu­ry BC, a time from which no musi­cal frag­ments have sur­vived. This is how Stein­mann, togeth­er with the instru­ment mak­er Paul j. Reich­lin, above all from the pic­to­r­i­al depic­tions of instru­ments; from the tonal stock of the recon­struct­ed instru­ments and with ref­er­ences to the rhythms of Greek lyri­cism, he re-com­pos­es, so to speak, ancient pieces. His Auloi (dou­ble wind instru­ments) sound breathy or flute-like, some­times even bag­pipe-like, and togeth­er with the voic­es of Ari­an­na Savall Figueras and Luiz Alves da Sil­va, with per­cus­sion and the frag­ile-look­ing plucked instru­ment Bar­bi­tos, they devel­op a very spe­cial, high­ly live­ly archa­ic of their own. Nobody knows whether it actu­al­ly sound­ed that way in the 5th cen­tu­ry B.C.; but it does­n’t mat­ter at all with the pas­sion with which Stein­mann trans­lates his research into sound. (Susanne Kübler, Tages-Anzeiger)

Frans Brüggen, to the newly imagined music of Ancient Greece:

What mas­tery: great how Con­rad Stein­mann pass­es by the Ital­ian Renais­sance and imme­di­ate­ly falls into the dark role mod­el, I admire it and I admire him.

The strangest nois­es and sounds I have ever heard. As if there was no world: I thank his great spirit.

Voices to the book: Three flutes for Peter Bichsel

Conrad Steinmann, Three Flutes for Peter Bichsel,
or the magic of the recorder,
25 stories about music, composers, recorder instruments,
Publisher Rüffer and Rub, 2016

Frans Brüggen:
Your eulo­gy for dead and resus­ci­tat­ing pro­tect­ed ani­mals is as pow­er­ful as it is ten­der. You are a great poet dreamer.

Peter Bich­sel:

Lucien Leitess, pub­lish­ing direc­tor of Union-Verlag:
I read your sto­ries with fas­ci­na­tion. So much pas­sion, secrets, friend­ships, great moments. A new mag­i­cal world for me, and still worldwide.

Wern­er Rutishauser, cura­tor at the Muse­um zu Aller­heili­gen, Schaffhausen:
A won­der­ful mix­ture of qui­et prank and sol­id infor­ma­tion, wonderful.

Daniel Fueter, musi­cian and for­mer direc­tor of the Musikhochschule Zürich:
In your book I am aston­ished and enriched and con­grat­u­late you from the bot­tom of my heart. It is an incred­i­bly col­or­ful, unique and won­der­ful­ly har­mo­nious mosa­ic! Con­grat­u­la­tions.