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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Flute Concerto No 2 in D major, K314 [17.53]
Concerto for Flute and Harp, K299 [27.53]
Flute Concerto no 1 in G major, K313 [24.29]
Patrick Gallois (flute), Fabrice Pierre (harp)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Patrick Gallois, Katarina Andreasson (directors)
rec Aug 2002, Örebro Concert Hall, Sweden
NAXOS 8.557011 [70.15]


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Is 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.

So 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.

In 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.

The 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.

Peter Wells





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