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CD Review

Karl Richter Edition

Profil 12055

Flute Concertos

  • Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Dance of the Blessed Spirits)
  • Franz Joseph Haydn: Concerto for Flute in D Major, Hob VII:f:D1
  • Wolfgang Mozart:
  • Andante for Flute & Orchestra in C Major, K. 315
  • Concerto for Flute, Harp & Orchestra in C Major, K. 299
  • Concerto for Flute #1 in G Major, K. 313
  • Concerto for Flute #2 in D Major, K. 314
Aurèle Nicolet, flute
Rose Stein, harp
Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter
Profil PH12055 2CDs
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan

Aurèle Nicolet was overshadowed by giants such as Galway and Rampal during his career, but he was an accomplished soloist who had a wide range of repertoire. Originally released as a double LP and later CD set on Teldec, these two discs in Profil's ongoing Karl Richter series (in which the label raids DGG and Teldec for anything Richter ever did) showcase his cordial partnership with this conductor and his Munich orchestra. It's always a treat to hear Richter outside of his favored Bach, but unfortunately, flute concerti rarely provide conductors with much to do.

In the main, Nicolet brings an appreciable mix of polish and style to all four Mozart works, which are accompanied gracefully by Richter. Nicolet may lack James Galway's "bigness" of tone or personality, but I doubt many would come away seriously disappointed. Perhaps the concerto for flute and harp has been given more assertive solo turns (this is a little soft, even for Mozart), but the orchestra plays with an unusual directness of expression and plenty of gusto. Frankly, I'm not sure if anyone would care about this piece if it wasn't for the unusual scoring, but if you like this work, this is worth hearing. Nicolet also recorded the Mozart concertos with David Zinman at the Concertgebouw, and those Philips renditions are reasonably priced and available in the out-of-print universe. Zinman is actually a pretty good Mozart conductor (this was long before his Zurich days), but again, Karl Richter is the main attraction here.

Finally, a Haydn concerto (not otherwise reviewed in our pages) and the formerly ubiquitous Gluck round out the set. The latter used to be found all over 78s and 33s as filler because it was short and tuneful. Today nobody much bothers with Gluck at all, but this was another Richter specialty, and it's very well done. As for the Haydn, only his concertos for brass and cello really maintain a place in the repertoire, and while tuneful, this present piece is not some forgotten masterpiece. The slow movement is probably the high point; a delicious morsel that is lovingly shaped. Nicolet makes a fine case for the whole piece, and flute players and aficionados will doubtless be pleased to have this concerto coupled with other staples of the instrument's library.

Profil's packaging is a disgrace, and confusing to boot. The recording date for this set is listed simply as 1960, but the 1995 identical set in the Teldec Richer series also lists 1962, and two dates seem more reasonable for what amounts to over two LPs. There are no notes and – also like the erstwhile Teldec set – the harpist receives no credit. There are photographs of the Teldec LP that allow me to make both claims regarding dates and artists, but I don't have access to a physical copy to see if the company elaborated in the liner notes. Since there are no liner notes for the present issue, I had to find the harpist by tracking down details of the original LP. That's inexcusable. Also, despite this being a new release through Naxos of America, Profil lists a 2014 copyright date for these discs. Perhaps it was released four years ago in Europe? Richter fanatics might want this set, but probably not. And Aurèle Nicolet's fans might actually want this, but I'd check and see if a used copy of the Teldec set is more intelligently annotated. As might be expected, the sound is decent early stereo, without the bloom and immediacy of say, Karajan's 1963 Beethoven cycle recorded around the same time. All and all, this is a curious and rather strange tribute to a great conductor.

Copyright © 2018, Brian Wigman