The XXIV grands Caprices pour une Flûte of Philip Seydler Print E-mail
Written by Tom Moore   

The XXIV grands Caprices pour une Flûte of Philip Seydler, musicien de sa Maj. le Roi de Danemark

Of the esteemed flutists of the early nineteenth century, when the flute was making its transition from the simple flute of Bach’s day, with one key, to flutes with four, five, six, eight or even more keys, Philip Seydler is perhaps the most obscure. We learn from the title page of his book of twenty-four caprices that he is “musician of his Majesty the King of Denmark” (judging from its plate number, 1661, the collection was published in by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1810-1812, so the king would have been Frederick VI, who reigned from 1808-1839). Philip Seydler (ca. 1765- Nov. 29, 1819, in Pest) had become the first flutist in the Harmoniske Selskab (Harmonic Society, founded 1778) by 1801, when H.O.C. Zinck (also a flutist, and a singing teacher and organist in Copenhagen) wrote “Herr Seydler, presently our principal flutist, deserves our audience’s applause and esteem because of his hard work, his skill, his improved tone, and his tireless good will.”1 He married Johanna Marie Augusta Timroth (1762-1841), sister of one of the court violinists, Johann Timroth (1766-1840), in September 17952. The couple had at least one child, Augusta Philippine Seydler (1809-1838), christened April 5, 1809, at the Hof Og Slotskirken, Copenhagen3. Seydler is mentioned (as Herr Professor Seydler ) in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of December 1819 as performing in a musical academy (concert) in Vienna which he offers a Polonaise for flute by Fürstenau4. The critic rather dryly remarks: “Herr Seydler may perhaps have had his day; now we require more.” And strangely, an advertisement in Augsburg seems to locate him there in 1818. Professor Seydler remarks “…since I may already be known to various friends of music through my compositions, and can play the most difficult chamber music at sight, I can offer my services to Gentlemen Music Lovers if in private concerts an accompanist, singer or flutist is needed. I also can offer to provide new flutes of my own making with up to 10 keys, or make other wind instruments, and to repair old wind instruments. My residence is in the Jakober Vorstadt at the Golden Star. Professor Seydler, from Stettin5.”

To my knowledge two copies of the set of caprices survive – one in the Royal Library6 in Copenhagen, Denmark, the other in the collection of the Moravian Music Foundation in Salem, North Carolina. The copy in Denmark is evidently missing the tables promised by the title-page. One other item from his pen survives – a set of six sonatas for flute and piano, published by Johann Aug. Böhme in Hamburg (no date), held in the Statsbibliothek in Århus. This must date to after the publisher began operations in 1795 (he had previously been an apprentice with Breitkopf in Leipzig). These seem to be the third set of works for flute in which the composer expressly sets himself the task of writing works in all the possible major and minor keys – the first being the Alphabet de la Musique, by Johann Christoph Schickhard, a set of 24 sonatas for flute or violin, published in London as the composer’s op. 30, c. 1731; and the second being the set of Studi per il flauto in tutti i tuoni e modi by Dothel, published in Paris, ca. 1778. There would of course be various such sets by the second half of the nineteenth century by composers including Soussman, Boehm, Andersen and others. Seydler’s caprices, in terms of style, are rather more what one would expect by the name – improvisatory, making use of difficult arpeggiated patterns – and less structured as little tone poems or sonata-allegro movements. There is only one set of variations, on a tune which is not identified, in C# minor.

Table of Contents :

1.  C majorAllegro moderato C

2.  A minorAndantinoC

3.  G majorAllegro brillanteC

4.  E minorAllegrettoC

5.  D majorAllegro moderatoC

6.  B minorScherzando moderato 3/8

7.  A majorAllegroC

8.  F# minorAllegrettoC

9.  E majorAllegro moderatoC

10. C# minorLarghetto con Variazioni6/8

(3 variations, Da capo al Fine, senza replica all 8a alta)

11.  B majorModeratoC

12.  G# minorAmoroso¾

13.  Gb majorAllegro moderatoC

14.  Eb minorAdagio con espressione2/4

16.  DbmajorAllegro moderatoC

16.  Bb minorGustoso2/4

17.  Ab majorModeratoC

18.  F minorAndanteC

19.  Eb majorAllegro moderato C

20.  C minorModeratoC

21.  B-flatAdagio espressivo¾

with Menuetto/Trio

22.  G minorFuriosoC

23.  F majorModeratoC

24.  D minorFandango3/4

Surprisingly, given Seydler’s relative anonymity, the Caprices merited an extensive and exclusive review, devoted to them alone, in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of Nov. 11, 1812, running to well over a thousand words7. They are also listed, with a price of 2 Thlr. 8 Gr., in the listing of new music for April 1812 in the same publication8. Given the importance of such a review, I have included it in its entirety in translation below.

XXIV grands Caprices pour une Flûte, avec 3 tables indiquans les Trilles, comp. par P. Seydler, musicien de sa Maj. le Roi de Danemark, à Leipsic, chez Breitkopf et Härtel. (Pr. I Thlr. 8 Gr.)

Download Caprices Review in PDF format.


1. http://kenderdupan.dk/index.php/kapiteloversigt/invandrerne

2. http://www.familysearch.org/

3. http://www.familysearch.org/

4. http://books.google.com

5. http://books.google.com/

6. http://img.kb.dk/ma/umus/seydler-24caprices.pdf

7. http://books.google.com

8. http://books.google.com

Tom MooreTom Moore is a journalist, musician, and translator living in Rio de Janeiro. He has recorded Telemann for Lyrichord (USA) and Boismortier for A Casa Discos (Brazil). He writes about music for BrazilMax, Musica Brasileira, 21st Century Music, Opera Today, Flute Talk, Sonograma, Early Music America, and other venues.