Alexis Kossenko / Arte dei Suonatori

C.P.E. Bach: Concerti a flauto traverso obligato, Vol. 2

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As usual with France's Alpha label, the nicely reproduced painting included, analyzed in the booklet, is worth the purchase price all by itself. It's a British image of Mount Vesuvius erupting, painted in the late 1780s, and its extreme details, starting with the magenta coloring, point not to realistic depiction but to the philosophical concept of the sublime that was in the air at the time. That concept had links to the dramatic Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) style favored by composers including Haydn and, in a somewhat earlier form, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, but the links are tenuous indeed in the case of the three flute concertos recorded here, which date from the 1740s and 1750s. They're more suited to illustrate the generally obstreperous quality of C.P.E. Bach's personality, combining vigorous outer movements with substantial slow movements that spin out a particular idea in detail. The historical-instrument group Arte dei Suonatori under flutist and director Alexis Kossenko stirs things up at the start with a fast, heavily accented and attacked opening movement in the Flute Concerto in A minor, Wq 166, and Kossenko, playing a copy of a flute made or owned by Quantz, keeps control over the lengthy central movements, which really form the heart of each work. The orchestra, with a dozen members, is as agile as one could ask, and their playing captures Bach's spiky idiom. Somehow the marvelous Vesuvius painting by Joseph Wright of Derby puts you in the mood for something different from what you get here, perhaps for some of the composer's wilder keyboard pieces. Yet the looser connections also make sense, and it's not as though crisp, committed performances of these concertos are abundant. Notes are in French and English.

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