Molique's Flute Concerto


John Wion


A version of this article appeared in The Flutist Quarterly (Vol 27, No 4)

Seven years older than Mendelssohn, Bernhard Molique (1802-1869) was a violin prodigy and student of Ludwig Spohr. At the age of 18 he was appointed concertmaster in Munich, and at 24 he became concertmaster in Stuttgart. After a successful solo career, he settled in London, where he became Professor of Composition at the London Academy until his retirement in 1866. His compositions include two masses, a symphony, 6 violin concertos, concertos for a number of other instruments, and chamber music. He had his biggest successes with his A Minor violin concerto, his piano trio, Opus 27, and his oratorio, Abraham.

While in Munich as a young man he befriended the flutist Theobald Böhm, and they did some successful concert tours around Germany. One of Molique's first compositions was a Duo Concertante, Opus 3, for flute and violin for themselves to play. A charming work that draws on themes of Weber, including the final hymn from Der Freischutz, it demonstrates that Molique must have been a superb player.

A more significant composition was a concerto in D Minor that he wrote for Böhm who first performed it during their concert tour in 1823. It had an unusual subsequent history, which prompted this article. The first written mention was a review in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of the Leipzig performance, January 13, 1824. "Although the composition performed by Herr Böhm is not a work of genius and shows here and there too much of the influence of Spohr, it is nevertheless an honorable addition to the repertoire of the instrument." Molique was just 21. A manuscript of this concerto is held by the Wurttembergischen Landesbibliothek in Stuttgart. It was not published during Molique's lifetime and seems not to have been assigned an opus number. It is the source for a 1987 publication by Billaudot, which was edited and recorded by the late Alain Marion. The piano reduction of the orchestral score is by Jeanine Rueff, the score and parts are advertised for rental.

Böhm last performed the concerto in Munich in 1825, and no other performance is known of until 1847, when The Times of March 5 reported that a concert of the Society of British Musicians at London's Hanover-square-rooms included "a flute concertino by Molique, executed with accuracy and irreproachable style by Mr. Wells. This concertino, not one of the most remarkable of Molique's efforts, but abounding in evidences of his manner, always agreeable to musicians, was written during the author's last visit to England."

Benjamin Wells was 21 at the time and had been a student at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in 1842 when Molique had last visited England. Although we know Molique did not in fact write the concerto at that time as The Times reported, Molique must have made Wells (or more likely his teacher, as Wells was just 15) aware of it, and left a copy. The flute professor at RAM was the Irishman John Clinton. It is also possible that Clinton knew of the concerto from Böhm himself, who had been in London in 1834-35. Clinton was an early supporter of the Böhm system.

In 1849 Molique settled in London, living at 30 Harrington Square and teaching composition and violin at the London Academy of Music at St. James Hall. Sometime in the early 1860s, most likely as a result of interest expressed by Danish flutist Oluf Svendsen, Clinton's son-in-law, Molique revisited his early concerto and prepared a new version, assigning the opus number 69. Svendsen (1832-1888) was a member of Queen Victoria's private band at Windsor and was listed with the Philharmonic Society in London from 1861 to his death. He had come to England at the age of 23 at the request of the French conductor Jullien, and was unusual in Enland at the time for playing a silver flute.

At about the same time, the G major Andante movement of the original concerto was published by Clinton in a version for flute and piano "arranged from the Orchestre (sic) Score" by the publisher. He notes that it is "from Molique's Grand Concerto in D composed for the Flute with full Orchestral Accompaniment."

Molique made an arrangement of the entire revised concerto's accompaniment for piano four hands. This also was published by Clinton & Co. (It is not clear whether before or after Clinton died in 1864.) The title page reads "First Concerto For The Flute with Piano Forte acct a quatre mains composed and dedicated to his friend Theobald Boehm by Bernhard Molique Op. 69." It continues, "This work has been composed expressly for the flute with orchestral accompaniment and for the accommodation of flautists who have not the opportunity of playing with the orchestra, Mr. Molique has himself arranged the orchestra parts for the Piano Forte a quatre mains which accompaniment embraces the whole of the points of the score. The orchestral parts may be obtained from the publishers (Clinton & Co) who have purchased the exclusive copyright from the composer. A beautiful Andante movement in the kev of G written originally for this concerto and known as Molique's Andante is published with piano solo accompaniment in lieu of the orchestra by J Clinton."

In fact the central Andante is the principal difference between the first and second versions of the concerto. The outer movements are basically the same, though with numerous changes in rhythms and technical figurations. But the Andante is completely new, the original 6/8 in G being replaced by a new 3/8 in F.

The premiere of the revised concerto took place in 1865 at the June 12th concert of the Philharmonic Society, the sixth concert of its 53rd season, at its Hannover Square rooms. The conductor was Sterndale Bennett, and the program included, in addition to Molique, Beethoven's Eb Piano Concerto and King Stephen Overture, Wagner's Rienzi Overture, a Mozart Symphony, and arias.

The June 24 issue of Musical World, after stating that no concerto could be presented to advantage so immediately after the Emperor, wrote "the flute concerto is the work of a master, and such a work, indeed, as we do not think had been previously written for the instrument, and Mr. Svendsen's playing was most admirable both in style and execution."

The following year Molique retired and returned to Cannstadt near Stuttgart, where he died in 1869.

After Clinton & Co. ceased business in 1871, its catalogue was taken over by Ashdown and Parry. Indeed the solo flute part accompanying the four-hand piano reduction bears the A&P imprint. This company then became Edwin Ashdown, whose 1899 catalogue still listed the concerto with four-hand accompaniment, the separate Andante (in F) with both two-hand and four-hand accompaniment, and the Andante in G. There is no mention in the catalogue itself that the orchestral material was available for hire, though it is reasonable to assume that it was.

Svendsen, who had replaced Radcliff as flute professor at the Royal Academy of Music in 1869, played the second and third movements of the concerto again in a Philharmonic Society concert in 1873, so must have had access to the orchestral parts, though not necessarily the full orchestral score. It is reasonable to assume that Molique took his autograph score back to Germany.

Fritz Schroder, in his 1923 biography of Molique (Bernhard Molique und sein Instrumental Kompositionen), says that there was a library at Cannstadt after Molique's death, though I know of no history that tells what became of it or its collection.

For some reason, possibly a new accessibility of the score (see below), three new editions of opus 69 appeared in Germany in the first three years of the 20th century.

The first, published in Leipzig by Eulenburg in 1900, was an arrangement for flute and piano by Wilhelm Barge, former principal flute of the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra. The solo flute part is virtually identical to the Ashdown and Parry publication; only the accompaniment for single piano is new. It is obvious that the reduction was made from consulting the full score, not by combining the four-hand version. This edition was reprinted in 1986 by Edition Kunzelmann.

The second, published in 1902 in Berlin by Raabe & Plothow, was edited by the Berlin flutist Albert Kurth. It consisted of an edition for flute and piano and a set of orchestral parts. The solo flute part has been quite heavily edited with added articulations and dynamics (particularly the addition of expressive swells), the cadenza in the second movement has been modified, and some awkward figurations in the outer movements have been changed. The rehearsal letters are changed to numbers, which however generally coincide. The piano reduction in the tuttis is somewhat different from the Barge version, perhaps a little less orchestral in the omission of certain wind lines. The orchestral parts are the only ones known to have been published for sale. Peter Martin's excellent article on the Molique Concerto in Tibia (Volume 15, 1990) mentions a miniature score published by Bote & Bock, successors to Raabe & Plothow, around 1920. I have not been able to find any further reference to this score or to learn if it or rather the set of parts were used to create the score that was published by Edition Kunzelmann in 1988. I assume the latter as the horn solo five measures after E in the Andante that was omitted from the part is also omitted from the score. The solo flute line in the 1988 Kunzelmann score is the Kurth version, not the Barge version used in its 1986 flute and piano edition.

The third edition, published in Heilbronn by C. F. Schmidt, was edited by Essen flutist Paul Wetzger for flute and piano. The title page mentions orchestral parts but no price is mentioned, and they do not appear in catalogues of music for sale. The piano score however does indicate the instrumentation, and of the three versions it seems to try hardest to incorporate the orchestral instruments' lines. The solo part has the most additions of expressive marks, but generally keeps Molique's articulations. An interesting addition is the turn added in bar ten (and later similar measures) of the Andante, before the third beat. This edition was reprinted by Southern Music and is the best known version of all.

The Southern Music reprint was the only edition available when I recorded the concerto for Musical Heritage Society in 1976 (currently available on Hartt Music Production's CD HMP4W91514 as well as for internet download). At that time I was able to borrow a set of the Raabe & Plothow parts from the Free Library of Philadelphia and make from them a hand-written score. The library had not catalogued its parts, believing them to be an incomplete set, missing second flute and both clarinets. However a comparison of my score with the Southern Music piano part showed the set to be complete. Molique's instrumentation was for one (orchestral) flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings. (In fact the instrumentation for the first version did include a second flute and 2 clarinets.)

The whereabouts of Molique's autograph score for Opus 69 is unknown, if indeed it exists. In preparing her thesis on the concerto (Das Flötenkonzert d-Moll opus 69 von Bernhard Molique, Regensburg, January 28, 1997) Tanja Hill found a manuscript copy in the Sachsische Landesbibliothek Dresden, along with an arrangement for flute and piano. The two scores give no indication of their date of creation or acquisition. The unnamed copyist is the same for both. The piano part in the flute and piano version is not identical to any of the three German editions. The Andante piano part is not identical to Clinton's reduction. This would suggest that it was copied from another piano reduction, perhaps Molique's own. The solo parts in the two scores vary slightly in details of articulation, but these are more likely copyist's errors than revisions by the composer.

Nor was I able to locate the manuscript parts used in the London premiere. That they were available to Svendsen in 1873 (after Molique's return to Germany and his death) prove that they had remained in London. If they indeed stayed with the publisher, their existence is not known to Music Sales, successors to Edwin Ashdown.

Molique's concerto, Opus 69, despite certain figurations that are more suited to the violin, and despite the occasional inconsideration for the flutist's need to breathe, deserves a place in our standard German repertoire, bridging the era between Romberg and Reinecke.

The opening D minor Allegro alternates great drama and virtuosity with lovely lyricism, and holds together well in its structure. The F major Andante is pure pleasure in its simple expressivity. The final D major Rondo is full of fun and variety, capped with a dazzling coda.

Of the versions currently available, the 1986 Kunzelmann reprint of the Barge flute and piano version is closest to the original Ashdown and Parry publication of the solo flute part, and thus to Molique's original. Because the original Clinton edition is the only known source dating from Molique's lifetime, and because of its rarity, I have transcribed the solo part and placed it on my Web site.

I am indebted to Robert Bigio, my guide and informant throughout my London research. At the British Library I was able to consult the archives of The Royal Philharmonic Society, The Music Directory, Musical World, the Edwin Ashdown catalogue of 1899, M. B. Foster's History of the Philharmonic Society (1912), and Cyril Erhlich's First Philharmonic. Information on John Clinton came from John Parkinson's Victorian Music Publishers: An Annotated List (Harmonic Park Press, 1990).

Ludwig Böhm, great grandson of Theobald, made me aware of and obtained me a copy of Hill's thesis which describes in the greatest detail the variances between the first and second versions of the concerto and among all the different sources (excluding the original Clinton to which she did not have access). She also provides her own version of the solo part, based on these sources.

Colin Fleming gave me a copy of the Clinton & Co. edition of the concerto, Christopher Steward gave me a copy of Clinton's publication of the original G Major Andante, and James Scott gave me a copy of Clinton's publication of the F Major Andante (in an Ashdown and Parry imprint).