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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hits and Misses in Fluteland

Marc-André DALBAVIE (b. 1961)
Concerto pour flûte [17:07]
Michael JARRELL (b. 1958)
…un temps de silence… (Concerto pour flûte) [18:58]
Matthias PINTSCHER (b. 1971)
Transir for flute and chamber orchestra [18:54]

Dates of composition are not listed in the program booklet.

Emmanuel Pahud (flute)
Orchestre Philharmoniqe de Radio France
Peter Eötvös (Dalbavie)
Pascal Rophé (Jarrell)
Matthias Pintscher (Pintscher)

Recorded 29 November – 1 December 2006 (1) 9-11 July 2007 (2-3) at the Salle Olivier Messiaen, Radio France Studio, Paris.

EMI 50999 5 01226 2 [54:59]

Emmanuel Pahud has quite successfully taken the mantel of the world’s elite flute players from the likes of Jean Pierre Rampal and James Galway. With a double whammy as principal flute in the Berlin Philharmonic and a widely acclaimed solo career combined with impeccable technique and fashion model good looks, Mr. Pahud is one of those rare classical musicians whose every new release is an event. Having covered already a goodly portion of the standard flute repertoire, he branches out here with three new concertos that he commissioned to be performed by him with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Of the three works presented, the opener, a flashy and colorful piece by Marc-André Dalbavie is the most successful. Of the three composers, he best understands form and orchestral color. He alone gives us a soundscape that is interesting and even challenging, but at the same time engaging, original and enjoyable to hear. Mr. Pahud actually gets to play his instrument instead of just producing a stream of sound effects with extended techniques.

Mr. Jarrell states that he set out to compose a work that would require the utmost virtuosity of the soloist. There is no doubt that he accomplishes his mission. But all of this fantastical writing comes across to these ears as more of a spoiled child’s “look what I’ve got” than in a real expression of a set of musical thoughts. I cannot say that the work is devoid of interesting ideas, but its episodic nature gets a bit tiring to the ear. It takes a couple of paragraphs of program notes to explain the work’s construction. I would prefer to get the idea upon hearing the music for the first time.

The Pintscher concerto is another collection of strung together sound effects that would work a good deal better as the soundtrack to a good slasher movie than it does as a concert experience. Rife with one special effects gesture after another, there is little material here that could be carried home in one’s head. That is not to say that it is not interesting to hear just how many fancy tricks that the flute can do in the hands of a Pahud, but the rather modern tendency to compose such structure-less stream of consciousness music is wearing thin. There is really nothing wrong with a good tune, even if it is a disjointed one.

This disc will appeal to the adventuresome and the pseudo-intellectuals who think that only incomprehensible music is good music. And, in its defense, the Dalbavie is indeed worth the price of admission. EMI’s fancy OPENDISC® format gets you access to video content, interviews, previews from other EMI releases and points toward free downloads just by inserting the disc into your computer.

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