Vivaldi: Flute Concertos (CD review)

Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Richard Tognetti, Australian Chamber Orchestra. EMI 0946 3 47212 2.

Emmanuel Pahud proves his worth as a world-class flautist in these flute concertos by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). As always, the composer wrote too many such pieces for a single album to cover, so this disc contains just the six concertos in Op. 10 and two more miscellaneous ones, RV440 and RV429.

If some of the music seems familiar even though you have never heard the flute concertos, remember that Vivaldi notoriously borrowed from his own earlier material. In any case, Pahud presents the concertos in a most sprightly, animated style, with a good number of trills and flourishes. It makes for a pleasant, enlivening experience, but it may also leave the listener a bit exhausted if taken all at once. Each three-movement concerto lasts from six to nine minutes, so picking and choosing a favorite or two makes for the easiest listening.

Now, the "howevers." I said that Pahud adopts a lively manner in his presentation, and to these ears the tempos can sometimes be too quick. I prefer the more relaxed approach taken by Janet See and the period-instruments group Philharmonia Baroque, lead by Nicholas McGegan. Maybe it's because I can listen to more of the music without tiring of the pace so quickly. A second matter is EMI's sound, which is on the slightly bright, light, hard side. It tends to add to the fatigue factor when attending to such spirited performances.

Finally, I noticed two possible discrepancies in the program booklet. The note writer, Michael Talbot, tells us that the "last track on this CD is the slow movement of the D major concerto RV 226, originally written for violin. The lyrical character of its slow movement, however, with pizzicato accompaniment, makes it particularly effective on the flute." All well and good and something to look forward to, except that I couldn't find it on the disc. The album seems to end with the third and final movement of the Concerto in D, RV 429, and there isn't any more. Maybe I just wasn't looking or listening hard enough, or perhaps Mr. Talbot got his information wrong, but I wonder why EMI left it in the notes. Moreover, the booklet tells us that "This is the ACO's first disc for EMI." Well, as I recall, Stephen Kovacevich did the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Australian Chamber Orchestra on EMI Eminence back in 1995. OK, maybe the mid-price Eminence label somehow doesn't count, but it's still EMI. Oh, well....  I quibble about nothing.


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