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The Flute King
Track-list at end of review
Emmanuel Pahud (flute)
Kammerakademie Potsdam (CD1)
Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord): Jonathan Manson (cello, all CD2): Matthew Truscott (violin; Bach, Musical Offering)
rec. June 2011, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem
EMI CLASSICS 50999 0 84220 2 6 [67:56 + 78:29]

Experience Classicsonline

Firstly, I have to compliment the design and packaging of this excellent 2 CD set. It’s a book-style hard cover production, profusely illustrated with beautifully reproduced images of Frederick the Great, and his times, and with a useful historical time-line included and an excellent musico-cultural essay on the court. Pahud also gets to dress up; the cover photograph is restrained, but the one inside is gloriously, if deadpan, camp.
These discs represent a journey to the flute-playing King’s court for an exploration of his musical life and times — which include those of contemporary composers, as well as his composing sisters.
The two discs are split between concertos and sonatas. The first disc starts with CPE Bach’s Concerto in A of which parallel versions exist for harpsichord and cello. It’s certainly stamped with Vivaldi’s influence but what lifts it above the merely competent is the exceptional, indeed extraordinarily forlorn slow movement, music of such openness and candour as to astonish. Well, it astonished me. The expressive intimacy doesn’t extend, and nor should it, to the genial finale, which is crisp, rhythmically alive and graced by Pahud’s effortless pirouettes and curlicues. The Bohemian Franz Benda contributes a Concerto in E minor. He joined the King’s retinue in 1733. He mainly wrote for the violin, his own instrument, but composed four fluent and attractive flute concertos. The first movement cadenza is dispatched with regal insouciance, and there’s a warm slow movement. Benda was an important early figure at court but the biggest influence came from Johann Joachim Quantz, who was Frederick’s musical mentor, hired at an astronomically high salary. His quietly confident Concerto in G is very much of its time, full of (once again) Vivaldian influence and also a refined lyricism. The sole example of Frederick’s Concerto writing in this disc — he wrote four altogether — comes in the shape of his Third Concerto. It reflects the surety of Quantz’s teaching, but Frederick also evinces some personalised touches such as strong rhythmic framing devices, and winning colours and effects in the slow movement. It’s a very competent and engaging work,
The second disc opens with JS Bach’s Musical Offering BWV1079 which he wrote for Frederick in 1747 infusing the music with something of the old Galant style. One of the King’s musical sisters, Anna Amalia, is represented by her practical, well laid out and effective Sonata in F. The King’s own Sonata in B minor has disarming warmth, makes articulation demands above the ordinary in the Allegretto second movement, and is a fine index of his compositional competence. In these sonata works Pahud is joined by Trevor Pinnock with whom he has worked before. They explore Johann Agricola’s Sonata in A — Agricola was a pupil of JS Bach — which is a solid piece of Baroquerie in the best sense, and C.P.E. Bach’s so-called Hamburger Sonata in G, a tasty morsel which, whilst stylistically a bit retrogressive, makes up for it via catchy tunes, technical challenges and a really delightful sense of animation. Pahud takes on the same composer’s Sonata in A minor for solo flute. This had a precedent in JS’s own solo flute work of 1718, but C.P.E. is his own man, and the angularity of the music and the clever intervallic writing are a constant source of interest.
If I began by praising the housing of the discs, let me end by lauding the performances. Pahud is an exceptional artist, as he demonstrates here, once more. He is a dextrous flautist, richly toned but never flashy. He also doesn’t mind dressing up in the interests of photographic art. Kammerakademie Potsdam gives excellent support in the concertos, as does Pinnock and cellist Jonathan Manson in the sonatas. Matthew Truscott’s outing in the Musical Offering is finely tuned. The engineering is also excellent.
I have nothing but praise for selection, performances and concept.
Jonathan Woolf

Track list

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Concerto in A, Wq168/H483 [19:07]
Franz BENDA (1709-1786)
Concerto in E minor [17:58]
FREDERICK II of Prussia (1712-1786)
Concerto No.3 [14:26]
Johann Joachim QUANTZ (1697-1773)
Concerto in G, QV5:174 [15:54]

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Musical Offering BWV1079 – Trio Sonata [18:35]
ANNA AMALIA of Prussia (1723-1787)
Sonata in F for flute and basso continuo [10:28]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH
Sonata in A minor for flute solo, Wq132/H562 [14:51]
Hamburger Sonata in G for flute and basso continuo, Wq133/H564 [9:16]
Johann Friedrich AGRICOLA (1720-1774)
Sonata in A for flute and basso continuo [10:07]
Sonata in B minor for flute and basso continuo [14:21]