A Tribute to Frederick the Great - Flute Concertos at Sanssouci
FREDERICK II of Prussia (1712-1786)
Concerto No. 3 for flute, string orchestra and bass
Franz BENDA (1709-1786)
Concerto in E minor for flute, strings and continuo
C.P.E. BACH (1797-1828)
Sonata in A minor for flute
Johan Joachim QUANTZ (1784-1859)
Concerto in G for flute, strings and continuo
Capriccios in G major and B major
Preludio in D major
Emmanuel Pahud (flute)
Kammerakademie Potsdam/Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)
rec. live, 16 October 2011, Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam
HD mastered from HD. Picture Format NTSC 16:9. Sound Formats PCM Stereo DTS 5.0. Region Code 0 (worldwide)
C MAJOR DVD 711308 [78:00]
In June 2011 Emmanuel Pahud recorded a disc called ‘The Flute King’ in which the Berlin Philharmonic’s principal flautist celebrated the 300th anniversary of Frederick the Great’s birth. In September he marked that event with a concert at the Royal Theatre of Potsdam’s New Palace, set in the Sanssouci, a World Heritage site. Pahud was accompanied by the Kammerakademie Potsdam, directed by Trevor Pinnock and the repertoire performed focused, as did the disc, on court composers such as J.J. Quantz, C.P.E Bach, Franz Benda, and Frederick himself. The disc was beautifully produced and I greatly enjoyed it. The DVD under review covers some of the same ground and is, in a sense, complementary.
The film opens up the concert element via a little, slightly camp conceit in which the flautist, dressed as Frederick, cavorts or strolls around his grounds. These linking perambulations finish as the music begins or slightly overlap. The CDs were split between concertos and sonatas, but here there is a degree more variety in a shorter space of time.
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.
Pahud takes on C.P.E. Bach’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. The Quantz Capriccios and the Preludio were not in the CD but attest to the composer’s agility of mind, as does the solo Preludio in D major which Pahud plays.
A few more words about the production: the trompe l'oeil set is gorgeous, the theatre being quite intimately sized. There are a number of good angled shots directed by Beatrix Conrad that take advantage of the lavish interiors. One gets a strong sense of energy from the standing players and from the directing Pinnock on such an intimate stage. One oddity is that Pahud plays the Capriccio in G minor in black jacket and roll neck jumper in one of the palatial rooms, not in the theatre before the audience. The companion B major is played in the theatre. As the pre-Benda Concerto perambulation by Pahud, dressed as Frederick, ends we follow him through the doors into the theatre and to his seat amongst amused audience members. A sleight of hand because on stage is Pahud. We’ve been had, and nicely so.
It’s an enjoyable DVD, and whilst it’s complementary and indeed overlaps the two CD set in terms of repertoire, it’s rather more of a once-only experience.
Enjoyable but rather more of a once-only experience.
see also review of the Blu-ray release by Kirk McElhearn
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