Classic Mornings

A February For Flute Lovers


I knew it was coming. I had read about it late last year. Michala Petri, the Danish recorder virtuosa, was going to re-record the Bach flute sonatas.

The first time around, it was with a big name performer. That was back in 1992 when she recorded them with Keith Jarrett. He’s probably best known as a jazz pianist and composer. But he’s a classical pianist and harpsichordist too, and was featured on the harpsichord in the Bach sonatas.

A transcript of an interview with the two of them had been included with the recording. Jarrett kept stressing how important it was to break away from all the intellectualizing about Bach and just make music . And Petri, who said that she had been used to working everything out in advance, was excited about being open to new possibilities every time she and Jarrett played the sonatas.

Well, this time she’s recorded them with 2 performers who also are “big names” and who specialize in playing the music of Bach and his contemporaries. Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani was born in Tehran,  grew up in Maryland and is based in Prague these days. He already had accompanied Michala Petri on a previous recording.  Esfahani is a champion of the harpsichord in our time, though he mentioned in an interview with Rachel Cooke of The Guardian last year that he actually began with the flute and violin, until he discovered that the harpsichord enabled him to best express himself musically. And he’s been lending his musical “voice” to quite a few early music performers’ recordings in recent years.

I wasn’t familiar with the German viola da gamba player Hille Perl, who also is featured with Petri. It turns out that she’s quite a virtuosa herself – like the other 2 players.  I saw references to a recording of 5 yrs ago called Born to be Mild, which she made with Lee Santana – no relation to Carlos. Lee Santana is a lutenist/guitarist/composer from Florida, who has been living and working in Germany for years. Though he did play Rock & Roll in his younger days, he’s an early music specialist. He and Hille Perl have performed together for more than 30 years. On their 2015 recording, they included selections from several centuries, performing on both accoustic and electric instruments.

Listening to Michala Petri on her new CD (OUR Recordings 6.220673)  reminds me of the many she has made during her career. Years ago she was joined by her mother and brother – Hanne and David, who were featured on harpsichord and cello. And she’s been in the studio with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, I Solisti Veneti,  the English Chamber Orchestra and lutenist/guitarist Lars Hannibal, who is the executive producer of the new recording.  In 2006, Petri and Hannibal established OUR Recordings, which, as the name suggests, consists of projects that are of interest to either or both of the performers.

Another new recording arrived recently, which introduces us to the Parrino brothers from Italy. Stefano is a flutist and Francesco a violinist.  They’ve recorded music by the 18th century Italian violinist/composer Bartolomeo Campagnoli (1751-1827). It’s a collection of 6 duos for flute and violin by Campagnoli (Brilliant 95974).

Campagnoli was born near Bologna.  As a young violinist, he played in orchestras in Rome and Florence.  He then toured as a soloist in Poland, northern Germany and Scandinavia. Eventually, he became the concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. His two daughters were singers, and it has been suggested that he stepped down from his post in Leipzig to help them with their careers.

Campagnoli was a Mozart and Beethoven contemporary  The new recording is a welcome addition to the music that both of those composers wrote for the flute and for the violin.

You’ve probably heard me play the Mozart flute concertos with the Swiss-born flutist Emmanuel Pahud. He turned 50 just several days before February began: on January 27th, which is Mozart’s birthday.  And the story is told that it was by chance that Pahud would come to know Mozart’s music and to perform it.

Nobody in his family had played instruments. But while the family was living in Paris, young Emmanuel would listen to their neighbors’ children play the flute, violin, cello and piano. He told his parents: "I want to play the flute, I want to play the Mozart concerto that guy next door is practicing.”  And so he began to study with 15-year-old Philippe – that guy next door. He later studied with Philippe’s father: François Binet, who had been an accomplished French flutist.

Pahud became principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1992. He was 22 at the time and was coached for the auditions by a former Berlin Philharmonic principal Aurèle Nicolet, who also was from Switzerland. James Galway, in case you weren’t aware, had been principal flute of that orchestra from 1969-1975.

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