This beautifully presented two CD set is emblazoned with images
of Emmanuel Pahud dressed as Frederick the Great, showing immediately
the performer’s sense of fun. The release coincides with the
300th anniversary of Frederick the Great’s birth.
Frederick II of Prussia was a keen flute player, and employed
notable flautists and composers in his court, including Quantz
and C.P.E. Bach. J.S. Bach visited the court in 1747 and wrote
the Musical Offering based on a theme given to him
The first disc opens with C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto in A. Pahud
has a reputation for his dazzling charisma and fine artistry,
and it is clear from the understated first flute entry that
he has absolute respect for the music, with the lines allowed
to be heard with simplicity and without the interference of
ego. This concerto exists in version for flute, cello and harpsichord,
and was composed in 1753, while C.P.E. Bach was working as the
accompanist in Frederick’s Court. The opening movement has moments
of lyricism and some displays of technical fireworks. The slow
movement is wonderfully dark with some breathtaking harmonies,
while the light-hearted nature of the opening returns for a
boisterous finale. The orchestra, Kammerakademie Potsdam, plays
with a well balanced sound and excellent ensemble throughout.
I felt that Pahud’s flute could have been a little stronger
in the overall balance, but he plays with well-judged elegance
Franz Benda was an influential figure in German violin playing.
He entered the Court of Frederick the Great in 1733 as a member
of the orchestra and later became concertmaster. The opening
of the E minor concerto, one of four concertos he wrote for
flute, is dramatic and somewhat operatic in nature - elegantly
described in the sleeve-notes as a ‘good-natured version of
… Sturm und Drang’. The second movement is captivating
on this recording, with some beautiful demonstrations of musicianship
and balance from soloist and orchestra alike. The finale has
a bright three-in-a-bar feel, and an infectious sense of energy.
This is an enjoyable concerto, which feels somewhat more cheerful
than C.P.E. Bach’s and has resonances of Vivaldi in the string
Frederick the Great wrote four flute concertos himself, and
the third is heard here. The opening is taken at an unhurried
tempo and this rendition has a sense of stately gentleness.
Pahud makes the wide interval leaps seem completely effortless
and plays with a considered sense of phrasing and style. His
performance approach for each piece on this disc seems to be
altered to suit the requirements of each individual composer.
This serves to highlight the contrasts between the composers
and to allow their individuality to come through in the music.
The differences are subtle but effective, and fascinating to
listen to. The slow movement is effortlessly beautiful, while
the last movement has some well controlled rhythmic precision
and a simplicity which captures the essence of the music in
an extremely convincing way.
The final concerto on the first disc is Quantz’s G major concerto.
Quantz was Frederick the Great’s flute teacher and one of the
most influential figures in our understanding of the style of
the time, through his writings and compositions. This concerto
is one of the best known by Quantz, and the piece has a cheerful,
light-hearted nature. The playing here maintains the high standards
of the rest of the disc, with simple lyricism and attention
to detail allowing the music to speak for itself.
The second disc opens with the Trio Sonata from J.S. Bach’s
A Musical Offering, a series of fugues and canons for
flute, violin, and continuo, which are taken from a theme presented
to Bach by Frederick the Great, while J.S. Bach was visiting
his son, C.P.E. in Potsdam. The Trio Sonata is in four movements,
and is played with a good sense of style and a balanced sound.
The famous ‘Kings’ Theme’ appears in the second movement, woven
into the contrapuntal texture. The phrasing is well matched
between the instruments, and there is much to enjoy about this
Anna Amalia of Prussia’s Sonata in F is a beautiful work, opening
with an Adagio which is full of gentleness and well-shaped melodic
lines. The two faster movements are light and charming, and
played here with a clear understanding of the style.
C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in A minor for solo flute has been recorded
many times by numerous different performers. Pahud’s version
is slow and spacious, with the first movement in particular
feeling unhurried and luxurious. He is a master of colour and
subtlety, and there are some stunning moments of detail which
are often missed by other performers. The cadenza is short but
effective, and brings the movement to an enjoyable close. The
second movement is lighter in feel but retains the sense of
spaciousness. His ornamentations are neat and often surprisingly
quick, and the tone quality convincingly mimics that of a baroque
flute. The fast final movement continues the sense of lightness,
and Pahud achieves an notable sense of contrast between phrases.
Agricola was a student of J.S. Bach, as well as of Hasse and
Graun. He entered the service of Frederick the Great in 1751
as a composer in residence, and then later succeeded Graun as
director of the Royal Chapel. His flute sonata in A is perhaps
less remarkable than those by others of the time, but is nevertheless
enjoyable and has some beautiful phrases, especially in the
slow movement. The finale is bright and cheerful, with some
well-placed imitation between the flute and the cello. Frederick
the Great’s B minor sonata begins with a gentle Siciliano, which
contains some unexpected harmonic progressions and lyrical lines.
The later movements feature interesting compositional ideas,
with a cheerful second movement including some chromatic lines
and fast-moving triplets.
C.P.E. Bach’s Hamburger Sonata is another repertoire staple
which is performed in a number of different interpretations.
Pahud’s first movement tempo is faster than other performances
I have heard, achieving a lightness of touch while maintaining
all the attention to detail that this piece requires. The technical
challenges are met with ease and remarkable evenness. The Rondo
is similarly well controlled, and played with considerable sparkle.
Consistently throughout this disc, Jonathan Manson and Trevor
Pinnock form an excellent basso continuo, with Matthew Truscott’s
violin playing matching Pahud’s stylistic precision in the Trio
Sonata. With musicians of this calibre, it is hard to find fault
with this collection of recordings. Once again, Pahud demonstrates
his excellent musicianship, and his mastery of musical style.
There is no dispute that this man has musicality in abundance,
and although his interpretations may not always be to everyone’s
taste, they are always well considered and performed with the
utmost conviction. One of the most impressive things about this
two disc set is that each composer’s music is played with an
individual style, appropriate to the music and giving a distinctive
voice to each of the composers. This serves to demonstrate the
differences in styles from a range of composers from the same
era, and gives a wonderful sense of variety to the discs.
see also review by Jonathan
Complete contents list
C.P.E. BACH (1797-1828)
Concerto in A for flute, strings and continuo [19:07]
Franz BENDA (1709-1786)
Concerto in E minor for flute, strings and continuo [17:58]
FREDERICK II of Prussia
Concerto No. 3 for flute, string orchestra and bass [14:26]
Johan Joachim QUANTZ (1784-1859)
Concerto in G for flute, strings and continuo [15:54]
Johan Sebastian BACH
A Musical Offering – Trio Sonata BWV 1079 [18:35]
ANNA AMALIA of Prussia (1723-1787)
Sonata in F for flute and basso continuo [10:28]
Sonata in A minor for flute [14:51]
Johann Friedrich AGRICOLA
Sonata in for flute and continuo [10:07]
FREDERICK II of Prussia
Sonata in B minor for flute and basso continuo [14:21]
Hamburger Sonata in G for flute and basso continuo [9:16]