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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Aram Khachaturian; Jacques Ibert - Flute Concertos (Emmanuel Pahud)


Composer: Aram Khachaturian; Jacques Ibert
  1. Khachaturian - Flute Concerto (*): I. Allegro con fermezza
  2. Khachaturian - Flute Concerto (*): II. Andante sostenuto
  3. Khachaturian - Flute Concerto (*): III. Allegro vivace
  4. Ibert - Pièce pour flûte seule
  5. Ibert - Flute Concerto: I. Allegro
  6. Ibert - Flute Concerto: II. Andante
  7. Ibert - Flute Concerto: III. Allegro scherzando

Emmanuel Pahud, flute
Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich
David Zinman, conductor

Date: 2003
Label: EMI
(*) Khachaturian's Violin Concerto, arranged for flute by Jean-Pierre Rampal



Some dazzling playing by a top-flight flautist makes this an ear-tickling disc

When the majority of flute concertos are lightweight, it is not surprising that leading flautists are keen to expand the repertory, adapting more ambitious works. That is how, on the suggestion of the composer himself, Jean-Pierre Rampal in 1968 came to prepare a brilliant transcription of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto recorded here by Emmanuel Pahud. A soft-grained flute could hardly cut through orchestral textures in the concert-hall in the way a violin can, but on disc careful balancing without focusing on the solo instrument too aggressively has produced a successful result.

The flute naturally lacks the required incisiveness for the first subject, but there are obvious gains in the lyrical second subject (2'05" into track 1): Pahud’s gentle tone and fine shading bring out echoes of Dvoák in New World vein, where the violin in the original has more of a gypsy flavour. Rampal and Pahud effectively replace the cadenza’s double-stops (at 7'48") with little arpeggiated flourishes, and surprisingly little seems changed.

Better still is the slow movement, where Pahud’s exquisitely hushed playing finds a mystery and tenderness in the hypnotic, Satie-like melody. In place of the finale’s brilliant extroversion on the violin, Pahud’s flute offers a cheeky lightness. James Galway in his RCA version brings out a jaunty penny-whistle quality, where Pahud relates this movement more clearly to the rest of the concerto.

Ibert’s unaccompanied Pièce makes an interlude between the concertos: a work which owes its easily improvisatory flow to Debussy’s Syrinx. The Flute Concerto was written for Marcel Moyse two years earlier in 1934; the finale’s mix of 6/8 and 3/4 metres brings a sharp, jazzy flavour.

What sets Pahud’s performance apart is the depth of feeling he conveys in the slow movement: poignantly mysterious, with breathtaking pianissimi matched by the strings of the Tonhalle Orchestra under David Zinman. The long, slow middle section in the finale, too, has a slinky quality, as in a valse grise. The recording, made in the Grosser Saal of the Tonhalle in October last year, is full and clear.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: *****


Aram Khachaturian (6 June 1903 – 1 May 1978) was a Soviet Armenian composer and conductor. He is considered one of the leading Soviet composers and the most renowned Armenian composer of the 20th century. Khachaturian is best known for his ballet music—Gayane (1942) and Spartacus (1954). His most popular piece, the "Sabre Dance" from Gayane, has been used extensively in popular culture and has been covered by a number of musicians worldwide. His music combined Armenian, Caucasian, Eastern Europe and Middle East folk music with established musical traditions of Russia.


Jacques Ibert (15 August 1890 – 5 February 1962) was a French composer. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and won its top prize, the Prix de Rome at his first attempt, despite studies interrupted by his service in World War I. Ibert pursued a successful composing career, writing seven operas, five ballets, incidental music for plays and films, songs, choral works, and chamber music. He is probably best remembered for his orchestral works. Ibert did not attach himself to any of the prevalent genres of music of his time, and has been described as an eclectic.


Emmanuel Pahud (born 27 January 1970 in Geneva, Switzerland) is a Franco-Swiss flute player. Classically trained at the Conservatoire de Paris, he leapt into the international orchestral and solo music scene when he joined the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1992, and now shared the position of principal flutist. He plays in diverse music genres, whether baroque, jazz, contemporary, classical, orchestral, or chamber music. Though an enthusiastic consumer and commissioner of new music, the Berlin-based flutist is most known for his baroque and Classical flute repertory.


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