Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Concerto in G major, WQ 169 (H445) [24:50]
Concerto in B flat major, WQ 167 (H435) [22:40]
Concerto in D minor, WQ 22 (H425) [22:45]
Arte dei Suonatori/Alexis Kossenko (flute)
rec. 2005, Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at the Catholic University Seminary of Guscikowo-Paradyz, Poland. ALPHA CLASSICS 304 [70:19]
This CD has been extracted from a set including C.P.E. Bach Trio Sonatas that appeared recently and was admired by Johan van Veen as “outstanding in every way” (see review). It is volume 5 in the highly visible ‘Alpha Classics Collection’. For me it was an easy choice as a pick for review, having admired Arte dei Suonatori releases including their excellent Handel Concerti Grossi Op. 6. Alexis Kossenko is also an artist whose reputation has been enhanced by numerous fine recordings.
Virtuosity and sensitivity are the watchwords for these performances. The ensemble players respond to C.P.E. Bach’s gentle orchestration and make way for the soft sound of the transverse flute in its solo moments, creating dramatic dynamic contrast for the tuttis. The booklet notes take the form of a recent interview with Alexis Kossenko, who marks this recording as a significant one for him as a project “in which orchestra and soloist share a single musical conception.” This conception includes a view of these concertos as “a balance of two powerful forces”, with all of the drama of real musical dialogue and at times confrontation. It is also good to know that Kossenko’s view of these pieces hasn’t changed a great deal over the intervening years. There are some things he would do differently now, but in essence the vision on the music remains constant.
The scale and substance of these concertos is still a source of surprise even today. You can expect around three concertos by Mozart on a single CD, but anything with the name Bach associated with it you might expect to find more like five of such works. C.P.E. Bach belongs very much to the early Classical period, and the striking combination of crisp chamber-music music-making, thematic distinctiveness and the extended development of brilliant ideas results in a rather special listen. If you don’t know these works you are in for a treat. Even once you’ve heard them often coming back to them in this context is a renewed joy.
There are a few recordings of C.P.E. Bach’s flute concertos around, though some of these works are more popular than others. Konrad Hünteler’s playing in the admirable Warner Classics 300th Anniversary box set overlaps only in the famous D minor concerto Wq 22, but has a comparable quality to what is heard in this Alpha set. Patrick Gallois has all six extant flute concertos on Naxos 8.555715-16 with an almost entirely convincing authentic vibe, and this comes highly recommended if you are looking for a complete set. Many alternatives are performed on modern flute and are therefore not really comparable with Kossenko, whose highly accurate and deeply sensitive playing along with that of the superb Arte dei Suonatori make this recording a ‘must-have’ for C.P.E. Bach fans.