Passionate, lyrical baroque flute concertos from Kuijken

The Grand Mogul – Virtuosic Baroque Flute Concertos

Barthold Kuijken (baroque flute), Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra

For his latest release on the Naxos label, the Belgian flautist and recorder player Barthold Kuijken is performing with the period instrument ensemble Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra. The CD contains works by Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Leclair, Blavet and Telemann thus providing the listener with a varied programme of lyrical, baroque flute concertos from Italy, Germany and France.

I have one or more performances of these works, with the exception of Flute Concerto in A minor by Blavet, in my collection already. The CD opens with Vivaldi’s Concerto Il Gran Mogul for flute, strings & continuo in D minor, RV431a from which the CD gets part of its title. This delightful piece appears on Florilegium’s excellent Sacred works for soprano & concertos on Channel Classics and on The French Connection 2 from La Serenissima with Katy Bircher playing the flute. Pergolesi’s  Flute Concerto in G major represents one of the few examples of Pergolesi’s instrumental compositions—if, indeed, Pergolesi wrote the work; musical scholarship is uncertain about its origin. This work is familiar to me through a recording by James Galway, with I Solisti Veneti and Claudio Scimone, has a style and structure that is very similar to those works that he wrote for the operatic stage. Leclair’s Flute Concerto Op. 7 No. 3 in C major is known to me in its version for the violin on a bright and delicate recording by Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante. Telemann’s light and amiable Concerto TWV 51:D1 in D major for flute, strings & b.c. has been recorded by Karl Kaiser in a sunny performance with La Stagione Frankfurt and Michael Schneider. Michel Blavet (1700–1768) was the principal flautist in the Paris Opéraand was better known as a high-rank performer than as a composer. Nonetheless Blavet endowed French flute music with the mature and virtuoso character that enabled flautists to vie with Leclair and other great French violinists of the period. It is a pleasant enough work in which the first and last movements, which are written in a purely Italian style, flank a couple of French Gavottes.

This release is to be welcomed not merely for its variety, which enabled me to happily listen to the entire CD in one setting, but also for the quality of the playing of Barthold Kuijken, who must surely be the best of baroque flautists, and the exuberant performance of the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra. These are fine performances that benefit from Barthold Kuijken’s assiduous study of the music of these five composers and they provide entertainment and enlightenment in equal measure. I have no hesitation in recommending this release to anyone with an interest in baroque music not merely aficionados of the baroque flute. Combine all of these factors with a sympathetic recording and this makes the CD a clear choice for our bargain of the month award.

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