The Swiss flutist Emmanuel Pahud has not shied away from going afield of conventional repertory over his career, playing a good deal of new music and even venturing into jazz. Yet perhaps nothing he has recorded thus far equals this album, his first on the Warner Classics label, which took over EMI's roster, for sheer daring. The album graphics do not really convey what's happening here. Yes, the "12 Fantasias for solo flute" of Georg Philipp Telemann are included in full, but they're not played sequentially (which historically is probably fine). Instead, they alternate with other works, from the 20th and 21st centuries. The most famous modern flute piece, Debussy
's "Syrinx," is not included, but in a sense, all the other works are its descendant: the program begins just four years later, with the "Sonata Appassionata, Op. 140," of Sigfrid Karg-Elert
, and as annotator Denis Verroust
points out, it was "Syrinx" that touched off what has become a full-scale revival of solo flute music. Pahud attempts to pair the Telemann sonatas with modern works that seem to reflect them. He has varying degrees of success here, but the sheer variety of the repertory he touches on is impressive, and so is the way he defamiliarizes the Telemann fantasias and gets you to pay attention to something other than the tonality. Some of the works use extended technique, but most do not, and a work like "Estländler" (2006) of Arvo Pärt makes a gentle, oblique connection to the fantasias that surround it. Two-plus hours of solo flute music is a lot, and Pahud, instead of choosing to conclude with something like the Pärt, throws a new Baroque element, a big set of variations by Marin Marais
, into the mix. You might feel this is a bit much and yet admire the demands Pahud is making on the listener. About Warner Classics' SWR studio sound there can be little debate: it's superb, and it draws the listener strongly into what Pahud is doing.