Tuesday 10 January 2017

Playing with personality: Juliette Bausor in Mozart & Nielson Flute Concertos

Nielsen + Mozart - Juliette Bausor
Mozart Flute Concerto No. 1, Nielsen Flute Concerto; Juliette Bausor, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Jaime Martin; Signum Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 5 2017
Star rating: 4.0

Fine pairing of Mozart and Nielsen concertos in characterful performances

Mozart's concertante works for flute and orchestra are some of the only major such works in the classical repertoire, so flautists wishing to pair Mozart with another composer have to look further afield. For her disc on Signum Classics, Juliette Bausor, principal flute of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, has rather imaginatively paired Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K313, with Carl Nielsen's Flute Concerto, FS 119 written nearly 150 years later and thus giving us two very different views of the flute as concertante instrument. Bausor is accompanied by the Royal Northern Sinfonia, a group of which she was principal flute for over 10 years, conducted by Jaime Martin (who is also flautist)

Mozart famously complained to his father about hating the flute, though there is little sign of this in his Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K313 written in 1778 though the work perhaps lacks the emotional depth of works like the Clarinet Concerto, (and for the second flute concerto (delivered to the same patron as the first) Mozart hastily re-cycled an oboe concerto).

The opening Allegro maestoso introduces us to the modern yet stylish chamber orchestra-scale Mozart from Martin and the Royal Northern Sinfonia. It is full of crisp details, and Martin keeps the tempo moving. The chamber-orchestra balance means that we hear some lovely details from the orchestral wind players, without them being overpowered by the strings.
Bausor's performance is nicely stylish, and she makes the movement very appealing in a performance which is almost vivacious. The advantage of her performance in the Mozart pieces on the disc is that she brings a great sense of personality to the music, rather than just pellucid beauty.

The Adagio, ma non troppo is rather graceful though I did find that the steady tempo veered towards the over-careful, yet Bausor brings a surprising degree of intensity to the music. The Rondo finale is marked Tempo di menuetto which means that the music lacks the 'hell for leather finale' feel which we might expect. All the performers give us a nicely perky minuet, with moments of graceful elegance, but we are left wishing for a little something more.

The origin of Mozart's Andante for flute and orchestra in C major, K315 are obscure, though the piece seems to date from the late 1770s and it receives a performance of poised beauty. Whilst the Rondo in C major, K373 was originally written for violin and is performed in an arrangement for flute, in D major, which appeared after Mozart's death. It introduces us to a rather more complex world, clearly when thinking of the violin as soloist Mozart's mind ran to different musics than when writing for the flute.

The opening of Nielsen's Flute Concerto plunges us straight into the dark intensity of a very different style of writing for flute. The concerto was one of a group Nielsen planned to write for members of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, though he only completed two concertos before he died. The flute part is suitably dazzling but questing too, and the way the instrument interacts with the orchestra creates a complex narrative. The cadenza-like moment towards the end of the movement really brings out the conflicted nature of the work, though it all ends calmly. The second movement is rather angular, veering towards neo-classicism and rather spiky with a hint of the disturbing. The performers really bring out the drama of the movement, again with a sense of dialogue between soloist and orchestra. And in both movements we get to enjoy the dialogue between solo flute and some non-obvious instruments in the orchestra. For the ending of the concerto, you almost feel that the orchestra imposes a sense of happy ending on the soloist.

It is Bausor's personality which brings these works alive, and in both she is well accompanied by Jaime Martin and the Royal Northern Sinfonia. The combination of Mozart and Nielsen makes and attractive pairing, but it is the dark and questing Nielsen concerto which remains in the memory.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) - Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K313
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Andante for flute and orchestra in C major, K315
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Rondo for flute in D major
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) - Flute Concerto, FS119
Juliette Bausor (flute)
Royal Northern Sinfonia
Jaime Martin (conductor)
Recorded at the Sage, Gateshead, 10-11 June 2015
Available from Amazon.co.uk.

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