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Wilhelm Bernhard Molique
Opera and lyrical music
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Bernhard Molique was a violin prodigy and student of Ludwig Spohr. At the
age of eighteen he was appointed concertmaster in Munich and at twenty four he became concertmaster in Stuttgart. After a
successful solo career he settled in London where he became Professor of Composition at the Royal 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,
While in Munich as a young man he befriended the flutist Theobald Bohm 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 which draws on themes of Weber, including the final hymn from "Der Freischutz", it demonstrates that Molique must have been a superb player.
He also wrote a concerto for Bohm which was reviewed after a performance in Leipzig in 1824 - "Although the composition
performed by Herr Bohm 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." The concerto was not published at that time though it is presumed that
this is what has been recently edited and recorded by Alain Marion using a manuscript in the Wurttemberg Library in Stuttgart. In
1865 the Norwegian flutist, Oluf Svendsen, played a concerto by Molique with the orchestra of the Philharmonic Society in
London. It would seem that this was a reworking of his early concerto, now designated Opus 69. A comparison with the Marion
edition shows that the outer movements are obvious reworkings and that the Andante is new. Whatever has now become of the
manuscript of the later version, it was obviously the source of several German editions after Molique’s death (one of which was
used in producing the currently available Southern Music edition). The new Andante has always been a popular solo but the
concerto as a whole is rarely heard. The opening Allegro is musically strong, though containing some awkward figurations and
extended phrases, and the Rondo is charming and appropriately brilliant.
Of Molique’s other works for the flute the most substantial is his Quintet, Opus 35, with violin, 2 violas and cello. Written in 1848 on
commission from the English piano maker and amateur flutist, Walter Broadwood, it is quite beautiful. As has been mentioned
earlier the use of two violas seems to imply a more serious intent than that of a typical flute quartet, and although the opening
Allegro is in D Major the first entry of the flute is in the minor mode. The Scherzo is in D Minor, though the trio is built around an
English folksong in the major mode. The elegant Andante is in Bb Major, but the contrasting middle section is again in the minor
mode. The bubbling finale returns to the opening D Major. The texture throughout integrates the flute with the three strings, only
the second viola taking an accompanying role.