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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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa