BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1759-1791)
Flute Concertos: Concerto for Flute and Harp [27:51]; Flute Concerto No. 1 [24:32]; Flute Concerto No. 2 [18:44]
Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Marie-Pierre Langlamet (harp)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Claudio Abbado
rec. 22, 24, 28, 29 September 1996, Philharmonie, Berlin
EMI CLASSICS 9659372 [71:06]
Mozart’s flute concertos are staples of the repertoire, and as such have been recorded numerous times by some of the greatest flute players, proving something of a test in both style and musicianship. There is undoubtedly an interpretation in existence to suit all tastes. These range from authentic period performances to versions with specially commissioned twenty-first century cadenzas. Most listeners have a clear favourite which is hard to beat. For interest, my own preference is for William Bennett’s recording with the English Chamber Orchestra and George Malcolm.
Emmanuel Pahud is without doubt one of the world’s finest and most charismatic living flute players. Having heard him live, I was curious to hear this 1996 recording. It didn’t disappoint; in fact, it exceeded my already high expectations.
The flute and harp concerto has a beautifully light first movement, played with simple elegance and with a suitably fast tempo to maintain the music’s momentum without rushing. The exquisite slow movement is played here with some breathtaking phrasing, and stunning pianissimos. Marie-Pierre Langlamet’s harp playing is as impressive as Pahud’s flute, and the pair make an excellent duo. The orchestra provides a sensitive and gentle accompaniment with a warm but unobtrusive sound. The final movement retains the lightness of the first, and continues the sense of this as a simple, straightforward interpretation, allowing Mozart’s music to speak for itself, with delicate phrasing and a good sense of the musical line. The cadenzas in all three movements have a sense of poise and delicacy, allowing the soloists to shine without interrupting the overall mood of the music.
The G major concerto follows, and the opening is bright and majestic, with clear articulation and a beautiful rich tone from the flute. The orchestra is consistently excellent, with a good balance maintained throughout. Pahud has an impressive evenness of tone throughout the registers, and good control of the tone colour, allowing for subtle timbral shifts which are completely compelling. He has a wonderful sense of style, which captures Mozart’s elegance and adds a touch of sparkle to the solo line. The cadenzas are composed by the soloist, and demonstrate inventiveness and imagination without straying from a sense of tradition. The slow movement is faster than some recordings I have heard, which prevents the line from becoming too heavy or over-sentimental. There is much to enjoy about this movement, most notably the well considered phrasing. The finale has a wonderful dance feel, played at a sprightly pace with some admirable technical clarity from Pahud.
The D major concerto possesses the same lightness of touch and healthy attention to detail that makes this recording stand out from many of the others. You will wonder at Pahud’s technical agility, with even fingerwork and clear, precise articulation. The sense of ensemble from the orchestra is spot-on and the choice of tempo in each movement is exemplary. This disc is unquestionably one of the best Mozart flute concerto recordings I’ve heard, with musicianship and instrumental ability in abundance. Unmissable.
Unmissable. one of the best Mozart flute concerto recordings I’ve heard, with musicianship and instrumental ability in abundance.