Khachaturian, Ibert

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Ibert,Khachaturian
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Violin Concerto (arr. Rampal), Flute Concerto; Pièce pour flûte seule
PERFORMER: Emmanuel Pahud (flute); Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57563 2
This Khachaturian recording poses a dilemma. Should you remain with Jean-Pierre Rampal, the man who transcribed the Violin Concerto for flute and one whose 1970 recording (Erato) exudes the spirit of the composer’s every nuance? Or should you shift to flautist of the moment, Emmanuel Pahud?

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For those who know Pahud as a risk-taker who pushes performances to their limit, this disc might come as a shock. His Khachaturian runs two minutes and more beyond Rampal’s, the majority of which is taken up in the first movement. But it’s still slick. The opening may lack Rampal’s infectious urgency, but Pahud’s pace gives the piece a dramatic grandeur; the power of his lower register ensures he’s never drowned out (not so most other flautists, even with the best sound engineer in tow). And he brings a chamber-like intimacy to the Andante’s Armenian chromaticisms as well as a sense of entertainment to the melody-filled final Allegro, all aided by the tight-knit playing of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra under David Zinman.

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If you prefer greater vitality, like to get close to the musician’s mechanics, key clacks and all, and enjoy a coarser-toned orchestra (French National Radio Orchestra), then go for Rampal. I’d opt for Pahud, for his sheer mastery of his instrument – his cadenza reigns supreme; his top notes never buzz – but also because his performance of Ibert’s Flute Concerto is in another league, revealing a charismatic artist whose exuberance intensifies rather than stultifies the Concerto’s wide-ranging subtleties. Kate Sherriff