Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach (1714-88), second son of Johann Sebastian, is perhaps most celebrated for his keyboard music, but the three concertos on this disc arose from his special association with the flute, the result of his 29 years on the musical staff at the court of Frederick II, King of Prussia. Known as Frederick the Great, the monarch ascribed to the ideals of the Enlightenment and made his court in the elegant environs of Potsdam, not far from Berlin. One of his great enthusiasms was the flute, which he played to an impressive level of accomplishment, also composing four flute concertos and over 120 sonatas.
Several works by CPE Bach feature on Emmanuel Pahud’s Warner Classics album The Flute King, comprising music written for Frederick, which was released in 2011 to this response from International Record Review: “Pahud can equally lay claim to the title of 'The Flute King' … [He] demonstrates a flexibility of phrase that arises naturally from the architectonics of the music rather than being imposed on it by a 'personality'. Despite the modern flute, his ornamentation and articulation are thoroughly idiomatic and chime with his period-instrument collaborators' crispness of attack and cleanly expressive shifts in colour.”
The ensemble on that occasion, as for this new album of concertos in A minor, G major and D minor, was Kammerakademie Potsdam, directed from the harpsichord by Trevor Pinnock, who over the last 45 years has achieved distinction as a leading figure in historically informed performance. “When we play this music together, we reach its spirit very quickly,” explains Pahud, “I love to play with Trevor and Kammerakademie Potsdam.”
The best-known member of the phenomenally gifted Bach family during his lifetime, CPE Bach (whose godfather was none other than Georg Philipp Telemann) was an important figure in music’s transition from the Baroque to the Classical eras. His style is often daring, experimental and emotionally fraught, conceived in a spirit of Empfindsamkeit (sensibility) – and possibly a little daring for King Frederick’s tastes.
Emmanuel Pahud was born in Geneva to French-Swiss parents and trained in Paris, but he has a special connection with Berlin, having become principal flautist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – at the invitation of Claudio Abbado – when he was just 22 years old in 1992. In 2000 he took an 18-month sabbatical from the orchestra to spend time as a professor at the Geneva Conservatory, and then returned to the orchestra in 2002 when Simon Rattle became its Chief Conductor. As a result, he has remained within easy reach of Potsdam and the beautiful palaces that Frederick the Great built there, the most famous being the summer palace Sanssouci.
Emmanuel Pahud flute
Kammerakademie Potsdam, Trevor Pinnock harpsichord and conductor