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16th-19th November


Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
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Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 


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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Flute Concerto No.2 in D, K314 [19:15]
Flute Concerto No.1 in G, K313 [25:25]
Josef MYSLIVEČEK (1737-1781)
Flute Concerto in D [18:13]
English Chamber Orchestra/Ana de la Vega (flute)
rec. September 2016, Henry Wood Hall, London. DSD.
Reviewed from 2-channel HD layer via Cambridge 650BD and Panasonic PD-10 SACD players.
Video available on YouTube here.
PENTATONE PTC5186723 SACD [62:58]

Having long suspected that Mozart’s hatred of the flute was a piece of eighteenth-century fake news – or was it a publicity stunt? – I’m delighted to have yet another proof of how excellent his two concertos for the instrument can sound in the right hands. With the rediscovered Mysliveček concerto, very well performed by its discoverer1, as more than a mere filler on what is its only recording to date, what more could we ask? It would have been perfection also to have had a performance of the perhaps even more delectable flute and harp concerto, K299, but that would have pushed the CD layers of this disc well over the limit. Perhaps Ana de la Vega will record that, too, in due course.

The obvious comparison for the two Mozart concertos is with Sharon Bezaly with the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra and Juha Kangas on BIS (BIS-SACD-1539, with flute and harp concerto, Andante, K315, and Rondo, K184Anh – review). Both Bezaly and de la Vega – the latter making, I believe, her recording debut – play beautifully. They almost – but not quite – persuade me that the Concerto in D is the equal of the Oboe Concerto, which was its original.

The dramatic circumstances of how the makeover from oboe to flute was effected are vividly described in the booklet which, as well as the now mandatory publicity shots of the soloist, contains very informative notes.

The performances are as vivid as the notes but also charming, though without any hint of the old-fashioned Meissen-china interpretation of Mozart. I listened on a very hot evening and I swear that the music cooled me down and soothed my headache. Then I listened to Bezaly, and her recording, heard as a 24/44.1 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com, was equally effective. Bezaly’s performances are generally a little faster than de la Vega’s; the effect is noticeable in performance but not to the extent that the figures would suggest and certainly not enough to spoil my enjoyment of both.

Both soloists are very well supported; sometimes it seems that having the soloist direct can lead to less than ideal ensemble, but that is emphatically not the case with Vega directing the ECO. The orchestra and conductor on BIS may not be household names, but that’s no hindrance in this case.

Bezaly employs cadenzas written by Kalevi Aho, which the publicity material describes as ‘stunning’. Though that filled me with apprehension, I didn’t find them any impediment to my listening pleasure any more than the unattributed cadenzas on the Pentatone recording. Nor was I troubled by the sound of Vega’s breathing, noticeable only when heard on headphones.

I was particularly pleased to make the acquaintance of the Mysliveček concerto. His is not exactly a household name, though there’s a CD of his symphonies in the very valuable Chandos Contemporaries of Mozart series (CHAN10203 or on Volume 2 of the series on a USB stick, CHUSB002). There’s also a very fine CD of his Violin Concertos performed by Leila Shayegh, Collegium 1704 and Václav Luks (Accent ACC24336 – review). I doubt that his flute concerto is likely to receive a better performance than it receives here.

Would I prefer it to the other Mozart works which form the coupling on BIS? Yes, if I already had one of the recordings of the flute and harp concerto mentioned below. Otherwise, the choice is difficult: both performances of the two concertos common to both albums are first-rate and both come in SACD or 24-bit download format. Certainly, Vega makes a convincing case for this work by Mozart’s friend; try at least to stream it from Naxos Music Library if you can. It is possible to download it separately; well worth doing if you already have and like the Bezaly recording. Alternatively, the BIS flute and harp concerto can be downloaded separately if you choose Vega.

The Pentatone recording is first-rate, as heard from the stereo HD layer; it’s even very creditable as played on an ordinary CD player. The sound is pin-point sharp without sounding at all clinical, but the BIS SACD or 24-bit download also has all the qualities expected from that label.

I’ve mentioned the ethereal Concerto for flute and harp. There are very fine accounts of this which don’t involve duplicating the two flute concertos: from Karlheinz Zöller, Nicanor Zabaleta, the BPO and Ernst Märzendorfer (DG Originals E4636482, with music by Reinecke and Rodrigo) and from Susan Milan, Skaila Kanga, the City of London Sinfonia and Richard Hickox (Chandos CHAN9051, with Oboe Concerto).

The Chandos is especially valuable for also including Salieri’s more than workmanlike Concerto for flute and oboe. In downloading it for review from chandos.net, I accidentally pressed the button to have it delivered on a 4GB USB stick, which gives me an opportunity to remind readers who are as yet nervous about downloading but have no room for more CDs that for an extra £2.91 your music comes by post in lossless and mp3 formats. That’s particularly valuable with large collections, which come on a larger capacity stick.

Those in search of period-instrument performances will find the flute and harp concerto in the company of Concerto No.10 for two pianos, K365, and Horn Concerto No.3, K447, from Jos van Immerseel and his Anima Eterna Orchestra on Alpha 339 at mid-price – review.

Do I recommend Bezaly on BIS or de la Vega on Pentatone for the two flute concertos? Let your choice of coupling decide; for me the addition of the Mysliveček makes that choice clear, but I already have several recordings of the flute and harp concerto.

1 Strictly speaking, its re-discoverer; the notes acknowledge that Milan Munclinger originally came across the score in Warsaw in 1943.

Brian Wilson





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