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"The Grand Mogul - Virtuosic Baroque Flute Concertos"

Barthold Kuijken, transverse flute
Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra
Dir: Barthold Kuijken

rec: Jan 24, 2013a, Oct 14, 2014b & Feb 26 - 27, 2018c, Indianapolis, IN, University of Indianapolis (Christel DeHaan Arts Center, Ruth Lilly Performance Hall)
Naxos - 8.573899 ( 2019) (65'27")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet
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Michel BLAVET (1700-1768): Concerto for transverse flute, two violins and bc in a minorb; Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764): Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in C, op. 7,3a; Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736) (attr): Concerto for transverse flute, two violins and bc in Gc; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in D (TWV 51,D1)c; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741): Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in d minor 'Il Gran Mogul' (RV 431a)c

Allison Nyquist, Martie Perry, violin; Rachel Gries, viola; Christine Kyprianides, cello; Philip Spray, violone; Thomas Gerber, harpsichord

In its baroque conical-bore form, the transverse flute made a relatively late appearance in the solo repertoire, in comparison with, for instance, the violin. The first players of the instrument known by name are from the late 17th century in France. It took a while before it disseminated across Europe, as the recorder was the most popular flute at the time, in particular among amateurs. That was quickly to change after the turn of the century. In most parts of Europe it became a fashionable instrument. That said, not that many concertos for the transverse flute have come down to us. Antonio Vivaldi, for instance, one of the most prolific composers of solo concertos, published a set of six flute concertos as his Op. 10 - which were mosty adaptations of earlier chamber concertos for recorder - but otherwise only a few concertos from his pen are known. They are by far outstripped by concertos for oboe and for bassoon.

Taking this into account, the present disc has a surprising opening. Barthold Kuijken starts with the Concerto in d minor, with the title Il Gran Mogul. Those who have a more than average knowledge of Vivaldi's oeuvre will immediately be reminded of Vivaldi's violin concerto with the title Il grosso Mogul, one of those concertos Johann Sebastian Bach arranged for organ. However, this is not an arrangement of the violin concerto. It was originally conceived for the transverse flute and has survived in two versions, in D minor and in E minor respectively. The former is the original version; Vivaldi later transposed it and also made the solo part easier to play. A copy of the second version was discovered in 2010, but lacks the slow movement. Recently the original version turned up, but there the second violin part is missing. A modern performance is only possible by using the second violin part of the E minor version, which has to be adapted and sometimes needs to be newly composed. The reconstruction Kuijken has recorded, has been published, and is a meaningful addition to the repertoire. It is notable that the second movement omits any ritornello.

The second work, a Concerto in G, which bears the name of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi as its composer, is taken from a collection of flute concertos preserved in the library of Stockholm. These are attributed to Italian composers, but there is reason to doubt whether they are the true composers. That also goes for this particular concerto, which has the form of a concerto da camera, as the flute is accompanied by two violins and basso continuo. Elsewhere this piece is attributed to Johann Adolf Hasse, but Kuijken doubts both attributions. As both composers were celebrities in their time, it could well be that some other composer thought that it may sell better with one of those names on it.

The solo concerto is a product of the Italian style. Vivaldi played a major role in its development and composers across Europe embraced his model. Whereas until around 1700 French composers generally resisted the influence of the Italian style, in the first decades of the 18th century they gradually fell for it and several Italian forms were introduced, such as the chamber cantata. At the Concert Spirituel in Paris, concertos by Vivaldi were performed; his Four Seasons were especially popular. French composers started to adopt his model and composed their own solo concertos. One of them was Jean-Marie Leclair, a violin virtuoso, who published two sets of violin concertos. Some of his violin sonatas can be played at the transverse flute, and the same goes for the Concerto in C, op. 7,3. Kuijken points out that the solo part includes a note that was not well playable on many one-keyed flutes. Apparently Leclair did not take into account the alternatives he mentioned at the score (the other instrument is the oboe, for which the solo part is even less comfortable).

As the transverse flute was especially popular among amateurs, we know only a few real virtuosos on the instrument. One of them was Michel Blavet; he played the flute parts in Telemann's Paris quartets during the latter's sojourn in Paris in 1737/38. Johann Joachim Quantz, who became acquainted with him during a visit in 1726, calls him the best of the flute players in France. Only one concerto from his pen has been preserved; again, it is a concerto da camera as it omits a viola part. Although this concerto is not devoid of virtuosity, it fits the French ideal of the time: music as an elegant conversation.

One of the greatest lovers of the French style in Germany was Georg Philipp Telemann. He was sceptical about the Italian solo concerto, which had too much technical brilliance and too little harmony. Even so, he composed a considerable number of concertos for one or several solo instrument and strings. The Concerto in D is one of his better-known, and here - as so often - he takes the form of the sonata da chiesa with four movements rather than the Vivaldian form of three movements. That is emphasized by the second movement, which has the form of a fugue, just like those in Corelli's trio sonatas. There is quite some variety within this concerto, as we have come to expect from Telemann. His creativity manifests itself clearly in this concerto.

Barthold Kuijken is the artistic director of the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, with which he has made several fine recordings in recent years. Here is another one; he brings in his vast experience in performing baroque music and his thorough knowledge of the repertoire and of performance practice. This results in a disc which will give immense pleasure not only to flute aficionados, but to anyone who likes baroque instrumental music. Kuijken's subtle playing and his tasteful ornamentation are a delight to listen to. The members of the orchestra are his congenial partners. This is a disc well suited to repeated listening.

Johan van Veen ( 2020)

Relevant links:

Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra


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