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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91)
Flute Concerto No. 2 in D major, K314 (1777)
Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra in C major, K299 (1777)
Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K313 (1777)
Fabrice Pierre (harp)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Patrick Gallois (flute)
recorded at the Örebro Concert Hall, Sweden, 26-30 August 2002
NAXOS 8.557011 SACD 6.110055 [70'15"]

It takes a great deal of individuality on the part of any artist - more so than mere virtuosity and musicianship; the bottom-line requirements of any good concert or CD! - to stand out in the crowd in such music as this. Patrick Gallois is just such an artist. Far from being a no-name Naxos ‘starter’, he is already a distinguished and oft-recorded player. Individuality is everywhere the hallmark of these hugely enjoyable performances.

Gallois obviously knows this repertory inside out, but there is a spontaneity and freshness in this music-making, which is as far from routine as can possibly be imagined! One sits up, takes notice and anticipates the rest of the programme with nothing but pleasure. Right from the start, the orchestral accompaniments are alive with detail. All manner of inner parts and bass voices - not just the prominent melodic lines - are carefully shaped and articulated. And high-points of phrases and paragraphs are forever being marked out with some subtle dynamic gradation or tempo adjustment.

The flute playing is beautifully polished. But you’d expect that. What you don’t expect are the countless flourishes, cheeky ornaments, and mischievous fillings-out of simple lines. Nowhere is this more entertaining than the trill which marks his first entry on the disc, during which marcato grace-notes accumulate and accelerate, inducing an amused smile on every hearing. In the returns of the rondo theme in each of the three last movements, Gallois plays teasingly with our expectations! And his appoggiaturas are particularly diverting - so often much shorter, or much longer than you normally hear, and yet always harmonically and stylistically justifiable.

Here and there (for example, in the little cadenza he inserts in the slow movement of K299 - the one Salieri was so moved by in Amadeus) Gallois even ‘warms’ a long note by revolving around it a microtone above and below. Outrageous? Well, may be. Eccentric, yes: naughty, perhaps! But in music so full of good humour as this - and music written by a composer who, elsewhere, wrote in different colours of ink for sheer enjoyment! - it would take a real pedant or scrooge to object. Gallois really does blow away the cobwebs!

For the record, his harpist colleague and the ever-expert Swedish Chamber Orchestra are equal to his every request. And the recording - especially in this arresting SACD - has admirable depth and ambience, allowing us to experience everything from the very best seat in the concert hall.

This is the commonest (and the most obvious) coupling of Mozart’s orchestral music featuring solo flute. But I wonder why it is so sequenced, with the second concerto (the one Mozart cobbled together from the pre-existing Concerto in C major) first, and the one genuine solo Flute Concerto last. It matters not. What does matter is the engaging sense of fun there is in these refreshingly different performances. A case for buying it, whether or not you’ve already got these pieces on your shelves?

Peter J Lawson

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