Australian Chamber Orchestra in Concert with guest artist Emmanuel Pahud

This was an absolutely ravishing, exquisite concert and a feast for the senses.

Fourteen years after his Australian debut with the ACO, one of Richard Tognetti’s great musical friends is back with his special 14K solid gold flute. Guest soloist Emmanuel Pahud currently divides his time between his Principal Flute position at the Berlin Philharmonic and touring the world as a soloist.

Through the concert there was a great rapport between  Tognetti, Pahud and the Orchestra.

We first heard CPE Bach’s Sonata for Flute in A minor in three movements. The first movement was slow and languid, the second intricate, bright and bubbling with the flute darting and fluttering. In the third movement the flute was even more birdlike in parts; teasing , scampering and swooping. Pahud’s playing was dazzling and effortless with creamy, expressive, beguiling legato.

JS BACH The Musical Offering: Ricercar a 6
was next – written after father visited son at the court of his employer, Frederick the Great. This piece was at times sharp and spiky yet always had a flowing languid flute. This was a many layered and textured performance.

Ravel’s String Quartet in F, arranged by Tognetti, which uses cross-referencing of themes between movements in a style alluding to Franck’s, took us to interval. It is interesting to remember that some of the unexpected tonalities come from Ravel’s exposure to Indonesian gamelan music at the Exposition Universelle of Paris in 1889.

The work featured nacreous pizzicato passages, vibrant trill effects and rich harmonies The first movement opened with fiery crashing strings and was an impassioned dialogue between the violins and cellos/double basses. There was furious scurrying from the entire orchestra. A sharp insistent section was contrasted with a rich impassioned one.

The second movement was brighter and rather bouncy with fast spiky infectious rhythms and use of pizzicato. The third movement was far slower and more thoughtful, the theme being stated and repeated. It became fiery and led to an emphatic conclusion. The final fourth movement was haunting, delicate and passionate with limpid flowing strings, the cellos and double basses rumbling, the violins and violas shimmering.

Debussy’s Syrinx opened the second half, with barely visible lighting, as the musicians crept on and Pahud played. A short,haunting piece, the work is reminiscent of Debussy’s L’Apres Midi d’Un Faune ( Afternoon of A Faun); rich, limpid and languid with incredible control, full of seductive sensuousness and polished legato as well as very secure low notes.

The final work, with lighting back up, was Franck’s (arr. Richard Tognetti) Sonata for Flute & Strings. Pahud’s playing in the solos was dazzling and lyrical.

Sometimes the flute was soaring and rhapsodic, rich and limpid while the accompanying strings were impassioned. The work began lushly and then changed to spiky with insistent strings whilst the flute bobbed and darted in the heated dialogue between soloist and orchestra.

Some sections flowed and pulsated, and the work had a Prokofiev like sound to it at times. Pahud’s showy solos were very fast bright and bouncy. The third movement was lighter in tone with a shimmering flute. The last movement was a joyous, animated discussion led by Pahud.

After much thunderous applause and cheers, the encore – Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair – arranged for the flute by Richard Tognetti was exotic and ravishing.

Running time – two hours including interval.

The ACO with guest artist Emmanuel Pahud played the City Recital Hall on October 7, 10, 11 and 13, and the Sydney Opera House on October 8.

CPE BACH Sonata for Flute in A minor
JS BACH The Musical Offering: Ricercar a 6
RAVEL (arr. Richard Tognetti) String Quartet in F major
FRANCK (arr. Richard Tognetti) Sonata for Flute & Strings