When the majority of flute concertos are lightweight, it is not surprising that leading flautists are keen to expand the repertory, adapting more ambitious works. That is how, on the suggestion of the composer himself, Jean-Pierre Rampal in 1968 came to prepare a brilliant transcription of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto recorded here by Emmanuel Pahud. A soft-grained flute could hardly cut through orchestral textures in the concert-hall in the way a violin can, but on disc careful balancing without focusing on the solo instrument too aggressively has produced a successful result.
One of the more puzzling remarks about the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach came from Mozart, who said that anyone who listened closely would realize his debt to the German composer. That seemed unlikely, given that Mozart only rarely availed himself of the Sturm und Drang ("storm and stress") style of C.P.E.'s keyboard music. But listen to this release by flutist Emmanuel Pahud and you'll get an idea of what Mozart was talking about. It's not just that the flute concertos are basically galant in style, not Sturm und Drang. It's a certain nervous energy that makes the flute bloom rapidly out of squarish themes and keeps you guessing as to what's coming next.
Izrael-born Sharon Bezaly (who now lives in Sweden) has rightly risen to the top of her field with silky performances like this one which seemed universally rated highly by the music press (Gramophone, ClassicsToday, etc). Her repertoire extends to many Scandanavian composers who have written several flute concertos for her marvelously refined technique (she was a student of Aurele Nicolet). On this recording she plays a 24k instrument custom-made for her by Muramatsu Japan.
The program presented on this release is one more typically found on small labels specializing in the Baroque era than on the major and sonically sumptuous Hyperion label, but for those who enjoy the virtuoso instrumental music of the Baroque it will live up to its surroundings. Naples in the middle of the 18th century was the largest city in Italy and one of the 10 largest in the word. Then as now, Naples attracted distinguished visitors with its scenic surroundings, but it was a hot, chaotic place from which creative people departed if they could. Of the big three Neapolitan opera composers, Leonardo Leo, Leonardo Vinci, and Niccolò Jommelli, only Jommelli is represented here. It's hard to detect traces of their novel operatic styles in these flute concertos, which are nicely oriented toward solo display without losing a sense of overall balance.