Also, Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter.” Jacques Zoon, flute; Martin Pearlman, Boston Baroque. Telarc CD-80624.
Taken on its own, this is a delightful, zesty treat, the Boston Baroque playing on period instruments without sounding edgy, and flutist Jacques Zoon handling the Flute Concertos in D major (K. 314) and G major (K. 313) with considerable aplomb. It’s only when you compare the music making to other recordings of a kind that you may notice any minor, subjective shortcomings.
Starting with the Flute Concertos, I compared K. 313 to Jean-Pierre Rampal’s 1966 recording with members of the Vienna Symphony on modern instruments (Erato). Here, three differences popped out at me. First, Rampal’s playing seems slightly sweeter, more delicate, more nuanced, and more poetic than Zoon’s, whose work is, nevertheless, quite fetching. Still, I preferred Rampal. Second, the Telarc recording with Boston Baroque sounds much faster paced, as we might expect from a period-instruments group, although the Boston players handle it in stride. While this makes for a more-thrilling ride than Rampal’s version, it’s not quite so graceful. And, third, the Telarc sonics (recorded in Mechanics Hall, 2004) appear somewhat warmer and softer than the older Vienna recording. However, this can actually be a benefit to the period-instruments sound, so the choice here may be a toss-up. Overall, though, on two of the three counts I slightly preferred Rampal’s rendition.
In the accompanying “Jupiter” Symphony, the comparisons I used were those of two period-instruments groups, one of the earliest of its kind, from the Collegium Aureum (RCA), and a more-recent one from the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (Harmonia Mundi). In these comparisons, I noticed the same quick tempos from Boston Baroque and the same thicker, warmer sound. Yet here it was harder to determine a clear preference. After listening for a few minutes to the Telarc, the older RCA interpretation sounded rather conventional, and the sound, though more transparent, seemed thinner, more wiry, and more sluggish. With the Harmonia Mundi disc everything sounded so good all the way around it made for no contest. Then, after listening to all three discs again for a while, the Telarc seemed a tad thick and overheated to me. I dunno.
I suspect that listeners will have to decide on the Telarc recording based on its coupling and its reputation. If you like the pieces of music presented on the disc, if you like Boston Baroque’s fleet, lively style, and if you like Telarc’s well-balanced but somewhat heavy sound, you’ll like this release. It’s certainly fun to listen to.
To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click here: