Emmanuel Pahud & Trevor Pinnock’s latest recording

Author: Clemency Burton-Hill

Find out about their latest relase on EMI and upcoming tour with the Kammerakademie Potsdam.

‘It is the perfect match,’ says flautist Emmanuel Pahud of his new EMI disc ‘The Flute King: Music from the court of Frederick the Great’, on which he is joined by conductor and harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock and the Kammerakademie Potsdam, Jonathan Manson (cello), and Matthew Truscott (violin). ‘The genesis of the idea came from the musical and human friendship between Trevor and myself. We first met in Salzburg about five years ago doing Mozart and Ibert Concertos, then decided to get together to record and tour Bach’s flute sonatas a couple of years ago, and we were always looking forward to some more exciting projects. This year happens to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of Frederick the Great, the ‘Flute King’, so there was really nothing more natural than to follow our collaboration with the music at Frederick’s court.’

For Pahud, whose day job as Principal Flautist of the Berlin Philharmonic allows him the flexibility to cultivate a varied solo career, this was not only a well-timed opportunity to explore the music of the ‘golden era’ of the flute – from J.S. and C.P.E Bach to Johann Joachim Quantz and Franz Benda, among many others including the King himself and members of the royal family. It was also the chance to work again with a long-time hero.  ‘Trevor is one of the most fantastically experienced musicians, and has been a pioneer of discovery in the baroque field,’ Pahud explains. ‘When I was a teenager I listened to his recordings, for example his Bach Brandenburgs, and that was the starting point of my admiration for him. I was raised in this spirit so it really is a great privilege and honour.’

This ‘spirit’, Pahud suggests, goes beyond music. ‘Trevor is not only the most fantastic musician but a great human being, a great person, and you can sense this – you can breathe with him. This is not only of capital importance for me as a flute player, but for any listener. And he works so well with ensembles: he’s ready to listen to the input of every single musician there, motivating each one to play with their entire body and soul.’ He chuckles. ‘And that’s what we really call making music!’

The admiration is clearly mutual; Pinnock describes with equal warmth and enthusiasm Pahud’s ‘lack of the wrong sort of ego. He has plenty of performer’s spirit; he involves himself completely, but his passion is for the music, the underlying truth of the music. He approaches everything with just the right sort of humility for the music to be able to flourish, and he sets the standard for playing older works on a modern instrument. He’s enormously creative and enormously aware of the implications of the music.’

For Pahud, who now embarks along with Pinnock and Potsdam on a seven-date European concert tour showcasing the new album, such ‘implications’ are exciting. ‘This is the first music that was written with the hope of expressing feelings, thoughts,’ he remarks. ‘The form is still baroque and pre-classical, but the themes and virtuosity, the passion and expression, particularly in the slow movements – this is really something new! It was introduced by Frederick and his court composers, and you can really hear it.’

Whilst both Pahud and Pinnock make wary reference to the less admirable aspects of Frederick’s character – the monarch was a renowned warmonger, and ‘honestly, let’s make love or music, not war!’ laughs Pahud – there is a compelling correlation between Frederick’s calling to the flute, and Pahud’s own attraction to the instrument, which he started playing as a child. He describes being ‘struck by the lightning for this instrument, like a revelation, the thought that this is what I want to do, what I have to do’ and admits that, while he does not feel a ‘human connection’ to the King, there is a strong musical connection. ‘I have been doing this since the age of 5 or 6, and there is nothing more natural for me. Similarly the importance of expressing himself on the flute was so decisive for Frederick the Great.’

Pahud and Pinnock are accompanied on both the album and the concert tour by Kammerakademie Potsdam who are ‘exactly the right people to do this’, says Pinnock. On the choice of ensemble, Pahud confirms it was an obvious direction. ‘In music, like in any language, there are idiomatic things that originate in the place where it is born,’ he explains. ‘Kammerakademie Potsdam are like the local band, if you like, for this music. These people grow up, rehearse, and perform in the very theatre in the castle where this music was being created, the city that was built by this King. They know and live by being there what others would have to learn. So they were a very natural choice. Also they were incredibly enthusiastic and open-minded.’ He pauses. ‘You know, every now and again in life there are these moments where everything comes together. It’s just a dream to make this music happen.’

Kammerakademie Potsdam
The Flute King, EMI Classics

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