another recording of the Mozart flute concertos really needed?
It is a question that we can ask each time yet another version
comes out – especially when it is coupled with a work as ubiquitous
as the Concerto for Flute and Harp. The short answer in the
case of this Naxos release is that, while it may not be needed,
with playing like that perennially produced by Patrick Gallois,
it is certainly worth having as an extra, even if you already
have one or more versions. Add to this the ever-present price
advantage of Naxos discs and it becomes apparent that they have a clear
winner on their hands.
what’s so good about it? Well, speaking as one who has never
had much liking for the modern flute, much preferring the
warmer sound of historic wooden flutes, the most striking
thing, noticeable immediately on the flute’s first entry in
track one, is the tremendous focus and sheer beauty of Gallois’s
sound. Too often the metal flute takes on a reedy, almost
clarinet-like timbre, combined with an ever-present continuous
vibrato. Patrick Gallois prefers a much more supple type of
sound which is distinguished by clarity coupled with a wonderful
flexibility. It is this aspect of flexibility of timbre that
works so well in the semi-improvised world of the concerto.
It makes all of the ornamentation - of which Gallois uses
a considerable amount, much of it quite extravagantly decorative
- seem logical and appropriate. He also has the measure of
the delicacy required in Mozart’s works for flute. Given that
the composer allegedly had little liking for the flute and
wrote for it only on commission, it is remarkable that he
managed to produce music of such seemingly effortless charm.
It cannot be said that these concertos are deep works (with
the exception of the slow movement of K299) so the aspect
of charm and delicacy becomes very important. In the slow
movements Gallois draws out the phrases with a languid approach
without ever veering towards wallowing. In the fast movements
the aforementioned ornamentation brings sparkle and wit as
well as virtuosity.
the Concerto for Flute and Harp it could be argued that the
harp is somewhat far back in the mix and the balance could
be more even. On the other hand there is a natural feel to
the sound reminiscent of what one would expect to hear in
the concert hall. The slow movement – always the highlight
of this particular concerto – is taken at a fairly fluent
pace; maybe providing fewer opportunities for the orchestral
ritornello to really swell, but certainly making much more
sense of the rippling harp lines than is often heard. It is
always argued that Mozart’s harp part is essentially a re-designated
piano part, and the imitative passages of trills are less
than idiomatic, but the faster tempo makes more sense, even
of these. Fabrice Pierre and Gallois share delicate ornamental
figuration between them in a way reminiscent more of the trio
sonata than the classical concerto – it is all rather fetching.
Swedish Chamber Orchestra plays
with verve and commendable precision,
directed either from the flute by
Gallois, or from the violins by
their concertmaster Katarina Andreasson.
The lessons of the period instrument
groups have been well learned by
this group of Swedes and the balance
between soloists and strings is
excellent, the continuo harpsichord
having a prominent and useful role
– difficult to achieve with modern
strings. The band is laid out with
violins on opposite sides of the
stereo spectrum and the recording
quality is excellent throughout.
This disc represents the usual Naxos value for money very well.