VIVALDI: 8 Flute Concertos – Barthold Kuijken, transverse flute/ La Petite Bande/ Sigiswald Kuijken – Accent multichannel SACD 24241, 66:12 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Those Kuijken brothers (Wieland—cello, Barthold—flute, & Sigiswald—violin) never cease to amaze. They have recorded umpteen albums of baroque and other music, specializing of course in period practice—whatever that is anymore—but always giving us radiant performances that stand up with the best. It’s hard to believe that La Petite Bande will be 30 years old next year (2012).
La Petite Bande is petite indeed on this recording, two violins, viola, and harpsichord. The debate will go one as to whether the chamber music of the baroque was miniscule or medium—both sides put forth good examples. The rationale here is that the transverse flute, a more modern instrument that was rapidly overtaking the recorder, yet with only one key, was also substantially hampered in terms of vying with the smaller instrument in terms of technical flexibility. It has a softer gentler sound that cannot compete with the piercing effect of the more versatile recorder. Fair enough—it is hard to imagine a larger orchestral scheme without heavily (and artificially) miking the solo instrument, and no one wants that, right? So when we hear the three concertos from Opus 10 here, and compare them with a recorder (Petri–RCA) or even a modern flute (Kutluer—Gallo) we are essentially comparing apples and oranges. The tonal characteristics—not to mention the rewriting that Vivaldi must have done…at least someone did—make it an entirely different listening experience.
The other pieces here are not originally for the transverse flute, but were also culled from existing sources, like the many violin concertos, and even then the radical difference in timbre is striking. This is not at all a bad thing, just a rather amazing example as to how tone color actually affects the emotional perception we have of music.
The Kuijkens can do no wrong performance-wise of course, and each of these little jewels is well worth exploring, though I would be remiss if I did not suggest that you add a recorder and modern flute rendition to your collection as well. The ones mentioned above will serve nicely. Fine SACD sound proves once again how amenable the medium is to smaller ensembles and not just the larger, splashier pieces. Recommended!
A lesser known jazz pioneer gets a re-mastered vinyl upgrade.