Even though the name of Fürstenau is relatively well-known until today among flutists (a twentieth-century volume was titled Fürstenau Heute (Fürstenau Today), the life and particularly the works of the nineteenth-century virtuoso Anton Bernhard Fürstenau remain generally unfamiliar. He was born in 1792, the son of flutist Caspar Fürstenau (b. 1772), who was his first teacher, and the two began to tour together in 1803. He became principal flute in Dresden in 1820, under the direction of Carl Maria von Weber, and when Weber was in London for the premiere of his opera Oberon, in 1826, Fürstenau, a close friend, was probably the last to see Weber alive, having helped him to undress on June 4. Weber did not respond to Fürstenau’s knock at his door the following morning, having died during the night previous, after a long illness with tuberculosis. His son, Moritz Fürstenau (1824-1889) was also a noted flutist.
Fürstenau was a prolific composer for his instrument, with at least six sets of studies, of which the studies op. 107 and op. 125 are still in print today, and part of the flutist’s repertoire. Fürstenau contributed to most of the genres usual for the flute in the first half of the nineteenth century, with quartets for flute, violin, viola and cello (opp. 39, 60, 62, 74), trios for three flutes, a quartet for four flutes, concertos for flute and orchestra, operatic fantasies for flute and piano, and at least two sets of concert music for unaccompanied flute, which are the subject of this article, the Six Thèmes Favoris variés pour la Flûte seule, dédiés à Monsieur Ferd. Furstenau par son frère op. 71, and the Caprices pour la Flûte seule, dédiés à Monsieur Wagener par son ami…op. 80.
The Six Thèmes Favoris variés belong to a genre which was very popular among composing flutists of the early Romantic, with multiple sets published by figures like Johann Gabrielsky, Carl Kreith, Niels Peter Jensen, Gottlieb Heinrich Kohler and numerous others. It is worth noting that the popular tunes chosen for variation almost never came from contemporary chamber works, but rather from the most popular numbers from operas and singspiels, and occasionally from the dance music included in such works. Practice varied with regard to whether the tunes varied were identified in these publications. Sometimes no titles or information was provided; sometimes one or two items would be identified in a collection, and the others not; sometimes relatively complete information was provided. Generally the tunes chosen were from stage works very close to the date of the publication of the sets of variations.
The Six Thèmes Favoris variés were published by H.A. Probst, undated, with a plate number of 484, and seem to have survived in only a single copy, held in the Royal Library in Copenhagen. H.A. Probst, based in Leipzig, went into business publishing in 1823, and sold the firm to Carl Friedrich Kistner in 1836 (the business continues operating until today as Kistner & Siegel). The plate number implies a date of 1828-1829 for the set, which is congruent with the dates for the tunes varied, which come from works from no later than 1825-1826. The set has never been republished, but was recently made available over the internet by the Royal Library.
The Caprices, op. 80, were published by Breitkopf & Härtel, also undated, with a plate number of 5127, which indicates a date of circa 1830-1831. Copies survive in Århus and Coburg, and there is a modern edition by Konrad Hünteler for Universal Edition from 1994. Unlike the variations of op. 71, only two of the caprices are explicitly based on well-known material, with the other movements being more abstract, absolute music.
No. 1 is a sonata-allegro movement in G, with the exposition repeated. No. 3 is a slow movement (Adagio) in E flat. No. 4, in 2/4, D major, marked Allegretto, is clearly a folk-based dance form, with regular four-bar phrases, and at least three different themes (perhaps related to the Bohemienne found in the Lindpainter studies).
Two, and perhaps three, of the six items are based on previously existing material. No. 2 is marked “Theme de l’Opera “La Muette” (Die Stumme von Portici). This is Auber’s La Muette de Portici, premiered February 29, 1828, at the Académie Royale de Musique, and the number in question is the dance “La Guarache”, which was widely popular for arrangements, with a version for piano by Henri Herz, for harp by Bochsa, for piano four hands by Mockwitz, settings for flute and piano by Küffner and by Charles Nicholson. No. 5, a Polonaise, moderato, in A, is marked Theme de Guillaume Tell de Rossini. The work was premiered on Sept. 19, 1831, so this is a date prior to which the publication cannot have appeared. Finally, the set closes (no. 6) with a rather traditional set of variations on a theme in G major, Andante, which seems like it must be a pre-existing theme, but I have not yet been able to identify it.