Notes and Editorial Reviews
If you only ever buy one recording of baroque flute music, this should be it.
This delightful two CD set contains a varied mixture of French and Italian baroque music for flute. Performed by Barthold Kuijken, one of Belgium’s leading exponents of the baroque flute, alongside his brother Wieland and the harpsichordist Robert Kohnen, these are high quality performances throughout. The choice of repertoire provides a good representation of the vast number of works composed for the flute in its ‘Golden Age’. In the eighteenth century, there were literally hundreds of flute pieces created throughout Europe.
The first disc concentrates on French repertoire, and includes works by Montéclair and Guignon
alongside the perhaps better known Boismortier, Blavet and Leclair. These varied items were all composed during the space of less than twenty years, from 1724 to 1741, and demonstrate the stylistic changes of the time. From the opening few notes, it is clear that this is an exceptional recording. The phrasing and sound quality in the Montéclair Prelude is beautiful and highly expressive. I particularly enjoyed the Boismortier sonata, where the performers evince a strong sense of duo between the flute and harpsichord. The playing is energetic, perhaps even forceful at times - without being over the top - and went against the stereotype of the baroque flute as a quiet instrument with limited expressive capabilities. Kuijken has shown here that such a stereotype is hugely inaccurate. This is a fine example of teamwork at its best, with each instrument sensitively balancing the others. The Blavet sonata, La Vibray, is played with elegance and poise. The final allegro provides a display of virtuoso excellence, with even technique and a beautiful sense of spacing. This is amounts to a masterclass in how this kind of repertoire should be played.
The second disc focuses its attention on Italian works. Some of the best known composers of the time are included, including Corelli, Vivaldi and Albinoni. The difference in compositional style, in contrast to the first disc, is immediately obvious. Recorded some 12 years later, the performance has the same freshness and energy as the French disc and demonstrates the performers’ understanding of the repertoire. The CD begins with an enjoyable and charming Corelli Sonata, with moments in which Kuijken demonstrates the depth of tone in his low register. The Veracini sonata stood out as having particular elegance and real charm, throughout all four of its contrasting movements. There is a constant sense of direction and is beautifully played throughout. Albinoni’s A minor sonata is one that I have enjoyed playing myself from time to time in an arrangement for flute and guitar. It was interesting to hear it now in its original form, played on period instruments. The fast movements are exhilarating, while the slow ones have a sensitive feel for the phrasing. Compared to a modern flute, the baroque instrument has more limited dynamic range, yet the dynamics come across clearly and there is enormous expressive power in Kuijken’s playing. Vivaldi is represented here with his (attributed) G minor Sonata. The fugue (track 22) was particularly enjoyable, played with relentless energy and excellent balance between parts. The phrasing in the Largo was beautiful, full of exquisite phrasing and tasteful but imaginative ornamentation. The final Allegro is a dazzling technical display, sounding effortless, with once again, even semiquavers and clarity of articulation. Also on the disc are very charming works by Geminiani, Platti and Locatelli.
The playing on these discs is consistently of a high standard, as one would expect of a performer of Kuijken’s reputation. His interpretations breathe fresh life into repertoire which has been heard many times before; I listened as if for the first time. His ornamentation is unobtrusive and stylish, and the tone colours he produces are captivating. He retains the simplicity often associated with the baroque flute, while creating vast tonal array and expressive variety. The continuo accompaniment is poised and supportive, never overbalancing the solo line or getting in the way. If you only ever buy one recording of baroque flute music, this should be it.
-- Carla Rees, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Flute and Basso Continuo no 7 by Jean-Marie Leclair
Wieland Kuijken (Bass Viola Da Gamba),
Barthold Kuijken (Flute),
Robert Kohnen (Harpsichord)
Written: 1738; France
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