Soave e virtuoso
One would be hard-pressed to find a flautist whose music-making is as broad as Alexis Kossenko’s. Active on both modern flute, Baroque transverse flute and recorder, his concert and recording soloist activities spread the gamut from Telemann to Nielsen. Then there’s his work as a conductor, guesting with the likes of B’Rock and Le Concert d’Astrée, but most importantly directing his co-stars on this latest disc, Les Ambassadeurs, the historical instrument ensemble he founded in 2010.
All of which means that, while ‘sweet and virtuoso’ could frankly be the title of any Baroque flute concertos recording, Kossenko’s presence alone warrants an interested look at its contents. It’s a typical Kossenko affair, too, in terms of the range of flutes his programme requires, its Tartini backbone scored for transverse flute but Vivaldi’s perennially popular RV443 and the Sammartini F major Concerto being soprano recorder works, and Vivaldi’s RV441 for alto recorder. Still, impressive and tonally varied as this horizontal and vertical buffet is, it’s the Tartini that’s of most interest, simply because the Sammartini and Vivaldi works are already so often recorded (and indeed personally I enjoyed the greater tempo contrasts recently brought to the Sammartini by Maurice Steger on his ‘Souvenirs d’Italie’ – Harmonia Mundi, 2/17).
The Tartini concertos, on the other hand, are far lesser-spotted, not least because they’re transcriptions of what were really solo violin works, albeit contemporaneously arranged. Furthermore, they appear here in beautifully rendered form, their many ornamentations smoothly and almost imperceptibly brought off in the up-tempo outer movements and tangibly augmenting the slow movements’ emotional affective weight. Les Ambassadeurs meanwhile are light and graceful of footprint, soft and smooth of attack and texture (in fact nota bene that it’s Classical-style refinement rather than full-on Baroque bristle, even in Vivaldi’s RV443), and interpretationally glued to Kossenko’s side.
So, while I’m beginning to think there should be a recording amnesty on those Vivaldi and Sammartini concertos, the Tartini might well be worth your coin.