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Gramophone China

July 31, 2008

Gramophone China

The recorder player provided more possibilities in the Adagio.

Whether to pick Mozart Flute Quartet in Galway’s modern flute version or Michala Petri’s authentic and pure performance is quite a difficult choice for the audience – the former version has been known for a while but the latter has more unique tunes.

Mozart composed these quartets during the time when recorders were historically being replaced by flutes. The recorder, invented as early as the guitar, gradually disappeared from the music scene and was replaced by the “grandfather” of modern flutes: the transverse flute. No doubt that at least two (D major quartet, K.285 and A major quartet, K.298) of the several pieces in the release were composed for transverse flutes. After all, the composer noticed chamber music’s newest member. But there is no way to be sure of the composer’s original choice of instruments. It would be difficult to determine their difference if it was not Galway’s distinctive mouthpiece control techniques.

Then what was the intention of the composer? Transverse flutes are absolutely better in tuning balance but the recorder is especially outstanding for the emotional responses emphasized by the special singing-like feature – the G major quartet (K.285) first movement in Adagio seems more touching.

Even in the comparatively faster parts, recordist Michala Petri keeps the sound clear and clean, even with Galway’s advantages. To determine which instrument Mozart was thinking of when he composed these pieces by judging the music or by reading the score is still too difficult a job.

We should appreciate recorder players for providing us with this option. In fact, to most listeners, it’s not important at all to determine which instrument Mozart chose when he composed these flute quartets. Recorder or transverse flute? Even if it was transverse flute, we still cannot restore the real tune by the adapted Boehm System. Therefore, Historically Informed Performance Practice can only help us to approach the cultural background and music appreciation of the olden days; nowadays, the orchestra configuration is fixed and the music appreciation is formed, techniques are more “modern” – one wonders if the proficient Mozart would be willing to compose contemporary music in a more aggressive way?