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CD Review

Johann Sebastian Bach

Music for Flute

  • Brandenburg Concerto #5
  • Orchestral Suite #2
  • Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1038
  • Flute Partita in A minor, BWV 1013
Emmanuel Pahud, flute
Berliner Barock Solisten
EMI Classics 57111 DDD 59:28
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Press "Play" and then "Repeat": this is a CD that won't leave your playlist quickly!

Emmanuel Pahud signed on to EMI Classics in 1996. Since then, the Swiss-French flautist has recorded Mozart's flute concertos and quartets, as well as more modern fare, including Debussy, Ravel, and Prokofieff, with pianist Stephen Kovacevich. Pahud is a musician in the vein of Jean-Pierre Rampal: he sounds natural no matter what style of music he is playing, and his tone is the finest. Rather than playing a mere instrument, he seems to be pulling the purest notes right out of the ether and arranging them spontaneously into music. The joy he must feel in playing as well as this is brought right to the listener. This Bach disc will cure most ills, including exhaustion, depression, and apathy.

The two major works played here – the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto and the Second Orchestral Suite – highlight the flute, although they are more than flute concertos. In the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, Pahud is joined by worthy soloists Christine Schornsheim (harpsichord – perhaps a little too reticent) and Rainer Kussmaul (violin, and Artistic Director of the Berlin Baroque Soloists). Schornsheim and Kussmaul join Pahud in the Trio Sonata, where cellist Georg Faust completes the continuo. This is relatively minor Bach, but its lighter textures are welcome after the Brandenburg Concerto.

Pahud takes center stage in the Flute Partita, which is no less worthwhile than Bach's solo violin works in this genre. It is a mark of Pahud's musicianship that even the monophonic instrumental line sounds richly harmonized and balanced on this recording. When given the opportunity – as in the repeats in the Orchestral Suite – he embellishes with real taste and imagination.

Pahud and the ensemble take briskly flowing tempos. Initially I was worried by the speed of the Brandenburg's opening movement, but nothing sounds forced or rushed. The Berlin Baroque Soloists play "authentic" instruments or modern copies. Detractors of such practices will find little to complain of, however; the musicians control the sound of their instruments, and not vice-versa, as was the case even twenty years ago.

This recording was taped in Berlin in September 2000. The engineering is excellent, with truthful perspective and warmth.

When EMI does their "Great Recordings of the 21st Century" series, this disc will be included. Strongly recommended!

Copyright © 2001, Raymond Tuttle

Trumpet