Robert Stallman is a man on a mission, inspired, first and foremost, by his abiding love of our musical heritage and his desire to illuminate it in new and telling ways, and second by his need (as in the case of all flutists), to expand the comparatively small repertoire for his instrument. Toward that second end he has been, from his formative years, an inveterate transcriber of music originally conceived for other instruments (see my feature article in Fanfare 31:1: "Nourishing Musical Fare from Bogner's Caf?"). This release, also under the imprimatur of his label, Bogner's Caf?, is titled "New Schubert, Works for Flute & Strings," and presents the latest news from his ongoing musical odyssey. As in the case of the Mozart transcriptions cited in the article, this offering is of the highest order in terms of its artwork and program notes. Then there are Stallman's performances-elegant in phrasing, faultless in articulation, and beautiful in tone, more accurately, subtly modulated tones always tailored to the moment-by-moment needs of the music.
These three Schubert pieces are from the brink of his consummate mastery. Transcribing them-the Piano Sonata in E (D 565) for flute and string trio; the Violin Sonata in A (D 574) for flute, violin, two violas, and cello; and the Violin Sonatina in G Minor (D 408) for flute and string trio-presents challenges beyond those found in Stallman's previous foray into Mozart. When he composed these three works, Schubert was altering his harmonic vocabulary. He was becoming less dependent on the traditional tonic/dominant relationship, and enriching it with a new scheme based on thirds that enabled him to modulate to tonally far away places, and back again, at the proverbial flick of the wrist. Though these new relationships are audible in Schubert's original scores, here they are brought out far more vividly. Listening to these transcriptions, one realizes that the masterpieces of his final years, including the Ninth Symphony, the last few darkly colored string quartets, the Octet, and the unutterably poignant String Quintet, didn't just appear out of nowhere. Their groundwork was clearly laid far earlier than we had thought.
These transcriptions are not, as might otherwise be expected, mere vehicles for a virtuoso flutist with secondary string accompaniment, but, as in the case of the Mozart offering, totally integrated chamber works. All voices are treated as equally essential, and the give and take between Stallman and his Czech string players is, in and of itself, a joy to hear. The result is Schubert in the round, captured in excellent sound that not only clearly delineates each musical line, but also places it in a graciously warm acoustical surround. Stallman instinctively knows that Schubert is, even in his most monumental works, a profoundly intimate musical voice, and that verity comes through here with striking eloquence.
Since Bogner's Caf? is a private label (most of the best ones are these days), it can be most conveniently accessed on the Internet through arkivmusic.com or through bognerscafe.com. In both his transcription work and his playing, Robert Stallman is a teacher. Rarely has Yours Truly found learning something new as illuminating and musically satisfying. William Zagorski
It takes quite an act of courage to transcribe any Mozart. Also consider that these transcriptions are of pieces from the consummate mastery phase of Mozart s career, and one has to conclude that the transcriber is either exceptionally foolhardy, or has something akin to a death wish. Robert Stallman has been adapting non-flute music for his instrument from the very start of his career. His motivations have been several: to enlarge the comparatively limited repertoire for his instrument; to bring to the public lesser known, but eminently worthy, music; and to explore the realm of musical possibility. Given what I hear here, Stallman has brought off all of those aims admirably. It may seem like a conjurer's trick, but it is actually the result of deep musical insight, an abiding appreciation of Mozart s style, and, quite apparently, loving labor. Comparing these transcriptions with their originals will prove revelatory. The piano is a percussive instrument unable to sustain a tone in the manner of the winds or strings. By applying those sustaining instruments to Mozart s voice leading in effect connects the dots, making Mozart s harmonic structure really shine. Then there is the matter of Stallman's flute-playing--effortless articulation, pellucid tone, and stylish phrasing. In this day and age, when so many authentic-instrument practitioners chop up the music's long lines, Stallman makes them soar. The result is both an homage to Mozart and a case of musical illumination. Recommended to Mozarteans everywhere. --FANFARE Magazine
"Great works by Mozart in a new light
What an exhilarating experience it was for me--and undoubtedly will be for all lovers of Mozart's chamber music and the legion of flute fanatics--to listen to this CD. Robert Stallman--the American flutist who is the reincarnation of Jean-Pierre Rampal--has pulled off a magic trick with the finesse of a David Copperfield. He has transformed (rather than "transcribed") three of Mozart's 4-hand piano sonatas into quintets for flute and string quartet--thus, in one fell swoop, singularly enriching the flute chamber music repertoire with three "new" masterpieces by Mozart, while at the same time revealing the essentially polyphonic nature of these late keyboard works. To top it off, Stallman is the flutist Mozart would have raved about, had he heard him play--instead of carping about the instrument's technical limitations. The performances on this CD, played with the superb Martinu String Quartet, are--in a word--delicious. Flutists and flute-music aficionados: at last, you have some more great music by Mozart in the flute repertoire to devour, besides the three omnipresent concertos and the flute quartets!" (five stars) Amazon.com
"RECORD OF THE WEEK: Stallman is no ordinary virtuoso of the flute, though virtuoso he emphatically is. He dazzles because of his penetrating artistry." Sunday Times, London
"Robert Stallman is a consummate artist."
American Record Guide
"What made Robert Stallman's flute recital at Alice Tully Hall Friday night such a satisfying one was more than just the variety of the program; it was the way Mr. Stallman could bend the color and the character of his instrument to fit the music at hand. Thus the unassuming directness of Martinu's Sonata for Flute and Piano achieved its simplicity through a general absence of vibrato. There was charm but never a smothering sweetness. In Reger's Serenade in G for flute and two strings, Mr. Stallman's tone turned warm, almost buff, while in two of Jolivet's 'Incantations for Solo Flute', the instrument seemed to broaden and deepen in richness and variety of sound." New York Times (B. Holland)
"The program was graced by a distinguished collection of musicians, among them the flutist Robert Stallman...one admired particularly Mr. Stallman's full, sweet tone."
New York Times (Tim Page)
"Flutist Robert Stallman has a genial stage presence...There was an interesting result of his ease: Most of the audience chatter was about his personality, not his virtuosity. And that virtuosity was, as the kids would say, awesome. It has been a long time since this listener has heard such a profusion of supersonic tonguing and blurred fingers, which was at the service of music rather than the 'wow factor'...So, self-promotion didn't seem to be paramount on Stallman's agenda. Just making good music." Star-Ledger, Newark
"As a flutist Robert Stallman is not yet a household name, but on the strength of these three discs he clearly deserves to be...A masterful player in every respect."
(Rating: A) Calgary Herald, Ontario
"Great musicians communicate a real sense of joy for their art. By this definition, Stallman qualifies as among the greatest in the world. His musicality is exquisite, and his performance was made all the more enchanting by the body language of the handsome performer. He clearly loves to play."
Holland Sentinel, Michigan
"Galway is more famous, but I would much rather listen to Stallman's rounded tone and stylish playing...The American virtuoso captures both the lyricism and the dancing delicacy of this music."
"CRITIC'S CHOICE: Master flutist Robert Stallman, widely known as America's finest flutist, is in Connecticut this Friday, Feb. 24, 8 p.m., to give a performance at the University of Connecticut's Jorgensen Auditorium...you can't afford to miss this concert."
"The gifted flutist dominated the evening with stunning treatments of the solo role...Stallman swept through challenging runs with astonishing ease while coloring lyrical passages with glowing tones."
The Boston Globe
"Stallman is a superb player, with a clear sound and impeccable technique-you're scarcely aware he's breathing." The Phoenix, Boston
"The duo opened the afternoon's program with a gentle Mozart sonata, setting a high level of both technical and interpretative performance for the remainder of the concert. Mr. Stallman's flute was, in turn, delicate, husky, then forceful...a rich, emotional flute."
The Tennessean, Nashville
"In Stallman we have a choice musician and one of consummate virtuosity. His musical sense expresses itself through intelligent nuances and a remarkable sonority that is not without recollection of Rampal's."
(Rating: 8 of 9) Repertoire, France
"Stallman has a beautiful tone, wonderful technique and an abundant imagination. His performance was the highlight
of the concert." Ongaku no Tomo, Tokyo
"Flutist Stallman is today a brilliant talent on the rise and is now heard on CD in Japan...I am so happy to know that America now has a flutist of this order." Record Geijutsu, Japan
"BRILLIANT STALLMAN: Mozart's ever popular Flute Quartet in D Major was performed [at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival]. In it the American flutist Robert Stallman played with a liveliness and brilliance that was incomparable. It is a well-known fact that the flute was not one of Mozart's favorite instruments (perhaps he never heard but mediocre flutists) and I myself, thus joining good company, have never gotten very close with the instrument. However, after listening to a master like Stallman, even the most doubting should change their attitude." Kaleva, Finland