Works for Flute and Piano
Works for Flute and Piano
Joachim Andersen's career followed an exceptionally varied course. At its core, he stood as a foundational member of the Berlin Philharmonic, skillfully navigating roles as a conductor and a particularly renowned solo flautist. As a composer, he emerges deeply rooted in his era, conveying sensitivity and enchantment in his works for flute and piano. These compositions are brought to life anew by flautist Alena Walentin and pianist Berit Johansen Tange, capturing the essence of Andersen's musical legacy on this dazzling double album.
The Chopin of the Flute
By Toke Lund Christiansen
Today, Joachim Andersen is especially remembered for his concert études for solo flute. There are no fewer than seven collections, each containing 24 études, as well as a couple of extra collections with 18 studies each. This musical treasure constitutes, nowadays, an indispensable core in a flautist’s development of both their musical and technical skills.
In his time, Andersen was a central figure in mid-European musical life: he was a founder member of the Berlin Philharmonic, where he worked as conductor and as a highly regarded solo flautist. He formed close friendships with leading figures like Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein and Hans von Bülow, and in Paris he became known as ‘the Chopin of the Flute’, evidencing Andersen’s remarkable status in the city.
Joachim Andersen’s career both began and ended with the Tivoli Orchestra in Copenhagen, today known as the Copenhagen Phil: first as an assistant to his father, the flautist Christian Joachim Andersen (1816–1899) and later in his career as conductor and artistic leader of the Tivoli Orchestra (1898–1909).
Joachim Andersen © The Royal Danish Library
Joachim Andersen came from a family of flautists: his younger brother, Vigo Andersen (1852–1895), was a prominent flautist who emigrated to the United States when still young, working in Chicago as a solo flautist. Some of Andersen’s most demanding compositions (for example the last collection of études, Schule der Virtuosität, Op. 60) are dedicated to his brother Vigo.
Like his younger brother, Joachim Andersen also felt a longing to travel, and after having been flautist in the Royal Danish Orchestra (1869–1877) he found employment in St. Petersburg, performing as the solo flautist of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (1878–1880).
Musical life in St. Petersburg was characterised by an international atmosphere with clear Scandinavian features, probably a consequence of the marriage of the Danish Princess Dagmar to the Russian Tzar Alexander III. It was during this period that Andersen formed relationships with a number of prominent German publishers in cities like Hamburg and Leipzig, as well as with the leading Scandinavian publisher, Wilhelm Hansen in Copenhagen. These connections contributed to the development of his musical journey, and opened doors on the international scene for his works.
Joachim Andersen left Russia around 1880, travelling to Berlin. At first he played in Bilse’s Orchestra, but soon after, in 1882, the by now 35 year old Andersen joined with a group of 54 dissatisfied musicians, a breakaway group from Bilse’s private orchestra, to found the Berlin Philharmonic. Andersen trained as a conductor with Hans von Bülow, and from 1885 there were many occasions upon which he had the opportunity to take on the role of director of the Philharmonic, notably at various summer concerts in the Dutch town of Scheveningen. Unfortunately he lost some of his manuscripts during a fire in this fashionable seaside resort.
Under Hans von Bülow’s leadership, Joachim Andersen had a fantastic musical life as a solo flautist. He worked with the greatest names of the age: Brahms, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Clara Schumann, Pablo Sarasate and others. As soloist with the Berlin orchestra he was also able to present compositions which showed off his skills, for example Cesare Ciardi’s Le Carnaval russe , a set of virtuoso variations he performed for the first time at the orchestra’s 1882 debut concert. At that same historic concert, he led performances of the overtures to Beethoven’s Leonore No. 3 and Rossini’s William Tell.
During the course of his years in Berlin, Joachim Andersen was extremely productive as a composer. According to his pupil, Fritz Ahlberg, he often spent time in the back offices of a Berlin café where he composed his pieces for flute. The many characterful pieces bear titles typical of their time, like those we also see in Tchaikovsky, Chopin or Liszt. They’re often in dance forms like Tarantellaor Polonaise, or a variety of waltzes. There are also dreamy titles amongst Andersen’s works, similar to those we know from, for example, Schumann and Mendelssohn.
As a solo flautist, Joachim Andersen trusted the older mechanism for the flute, and it was only late in his career that he began to recommend his pupils to develop their skills on the new Böhm mechanism, which gradually came to dominate. Unfortunately he was afflicted in the 1890s with a paralysis of the tongue, probably the result of a syphilis infection, which brought his career as a flautist to an end.
After his years in Berlin, Joachim Andersen returned home to Copenhagen. From 1893 until his death in 1909, he led the popular Palace Concerts, and from 1898 he appeared as a strict leader for Tivoli’s Symphony Orchestra. He was a charismatic figure, who with centre-parted neck hair turned his back to the public while he conducted. This technique had not been seen before in Copenhagen; he brought it from Hans von Bülow in Berlin. He also wore white gloves while conducting, another legacy from von Bülow.
Joachim Andersen’s sensitive Impromptu, Op. 7, is dedicated to his friend the master flautist Paul Taffanel (1844–1908). Taffanel holds his place in the history of the flute as the person who created and formulated the French flute tradition. The two men’s friendship had begun in their days in St. Petersburg, when Taffanel had appeared as a solo flautist. He took the opportunity to commission a flute concerto from Tchaikovsky, but unfortunately for flautists, there are only a few sketches which remain of this promising project.
In Joachim Andersen’s first Impromptu, Op. 7, it is already apparent that he had found his own style and mode of expression. A certain sadness dwells in many of his smaller character pieces, with the inspiration apparently from the usual group of contemporaries, including Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Anton Rubinstein. In contrast to the work of many other ‘flute composers’, Andersen’s piano parts is finely worked out and clearly shows that he played the piano well himself.
Au bord de la mer, Op. 9, differentiates itself in a number of ways from Andersen’s other works for flute and piano. The piano part is so prominent and delicately shaped that it is a piece for piano and flute, rather than the other way around. In its tonal language, this character piece lies on the border between French late Romanticism and Impressionism. The atmosphere in the melodic material is melancholically supported by fine-voiced accompanying wave-like gestures. After the work has moved up to a high level of expression in the flute, it leaves us with the feeling of something surreal. Au bord de la mer was dedicated to the youngest of the Fürstenau dynasty of flautists, Moritz Fürstenau, a solo flautist in Dresden.
We find a special Nordic tone in Joachim Andersen’s smaller compositions, showing inspiration from Grieg and Johan Svendsen. In the years up to the turn of the century, Grieg’s collections of Lyric Pieces stood on every piano. In Andersen’s collection Op. 24, the small form is used to create a magical atmosphere, with titles that can also be found with variations in Grieg. Andersen’s Op. 24 was dedicated to his future wife, Sarah Dana Watson, with the six character pieces first published in London. Andersen himself performed the final piece, the virtuoso Babillard, with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1891, in a version for flute and orchestra.
We find one of Andersen’s most charming pieces described as a Valse caprice, Op. 44. The title of the piece, L’Hirondelle (The Swallow), is brought to life in elegant, ethereal phrases.
Earlier in his career, Joachim Andersen entered arrangements with a number of music publishers, notably in Germany, and his Fantaisies nationales, Op. 59 accommodate a demand to be able to play music which was familiar, rather than having an artistic purpose. The fantasies, six in all (Danish, English, Russian, Swedish, Italian and Hungarian), were published by Wilhelm Hansen’s in 1895. In ‘Danois’, the folk melody, ‘Vort modersmål’ (‘Our Mother Tongue’) can be recognised: Andersen interweaves the tune with cadence-like bridge passages between more and less familiar folk tunes. The same strategy is adopted in ‘Russe’, where Andersen obviously has made use of his memories from the three years he spent in St. Petersburg. Not unexpectedly, ‘Suèdois’ is twice as long as the other pieces, for the Swedish folk tunes possess entirely special qualities, not least in the traditional Ack,Värmeland, du sköna, here with variations.
As a composer, Andersen concerned himself primarily with music for the flute. Beyond works for flute with piano or with orchestra, he also wrote a series of small character pieces, representing various epochs in his own life.
Ballade et danse des sylphes, Op. 5 is built up on a model found in the works of Philipp Gaubert, Louis Ganne, Paul Taffanel and a string of other French composers. The form, slow then quick, was a firm requirement, as all the pieces became exam assignments at the Paris Conservatoire. Here the graduating students were expected to show that they had mastered expressive playing as well as having a perfect virtuoso technique. Joachim Andersen was friends with Paul Taffanel over many years, and it was certainly to Taffanel’s merit that Andersen chose this form. The degree of technical difficulty in the flute part is considerable, while Ballade et danse des sylphes also features a distinct piano part.
Op. 6, the Morceaux de salon (salon pieces), was published in Hamburg. It seems likely that the German publisher asked Andersen to write in such a way that also the countless flute amateurs could enjoy the music. The same circumstances stood for Andersen’s contemporary, Grieg, and his many Lyric Pieces. For Grieg, the pieces became an important source of income. Andersen did not experience a similar international breakthrough with his character pieces for flute. But his many studies for flute have become a lasting legacy. The charming Album-Blatt in A major, Op. 19, belongs to this category too.
The collection La Resignation et Polonaise, Op. 22 was first published in London, and it is typical for Andersen that his network of publishers in France, Germany, England and Denmark functioned well. In 1894 Andersen performed in an orchestral arrangement of La Resignation with the Philharmonic Orchestra in Berlin.
The Sechs Schwedische Polska-Lieder, Op. 50 were built upon an earlier work by the Swedish singer, Isidore Dannström (1812–1897). It was Andersen’s version which became popular, and the six Polska-Lieder are his most popular pieces for flute and piano. The pieces carry a precise dating, ‘Copenhagen, 18 December 1894’, which was just when Andersen had returned from Berlin to Copenhagen. The well-arranged folk tunes are, respectively, in D minor, G major, E minor, C major, D minor and F major. In his youth, Joachim Andersen had toured Sweden as a flute soloist, but it was only in his later years that he was inspired by the Swedish folk music he had heard to write these six splendid bouquets.
The six Polska-Lieder are based on both well-known and less familiar Swedish folk tunes, and elegantly put together in rhapsodic form. There is a tendency to assume, with Andersen, that ‘early Joachim Andersen is best’, a view that has led to an under-estimation of these well laid out and lively polskas. The first two pieces are dedicated to the flute virtuoso and Andersen pupil, Fanny Christensen, the final pair to Joachim Andersen’s son, Ernst, a tragic figure who tried, without success, to become a flautist.
Op. 46, a character piece in A minor, Wiedersehen (Lied ohne Worte), and the last piece on this release, is dedicated to the married couple Bleecker. It was published first in Leipzig but was probably composed in Berlin. In Andersen’s Wiedersehen we meet a composer who, plagued by illness, no longer carries youth’s carelessness.