It is hard to believe that Mozart was only 21 when he composed these enchanting works. At the time, he expressed to his father, "You know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument I cannot bear." Yet, he went on to compose masterpieces for that instrument, the flute, that have been repeatedly performed and recorded.
Telarc, using Jacques Zoon on flute with the Boston Baroque orchestra, and Naxos, featuring Patrick Gallois and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, have provided us with two differing views of these lovely flute concertos. Interestingly, neither group of performers can agree on tempos, timing, pitch, and instrumentation. The Telarc is recorded with period instruments, the Naxos with modern ones. Detail retrieval varies -- the harpsichord is easily heard on the Naxos, but is deeper in the mix on the Telarc. And yet, each has something enjoyable to recommend it. It will be up to you to decide which offers the performance that meets your tastes.
The extra pieces might help you make a decision: the stentorian Symphony No. 41 on Telarc, or the charming Concerto for Flute and Harp on Naxos. These are not filler performances. They add completeness to both of these discs, especially the Naxos. The Naxos recording is also available on multichannel DVD-A.
The sonics are excellent on both discs, with balances that are spot on. The Telarc is much more closely recorded, giving one a front-row or stage seat. The Naxos offers a more pleasing mid-hall perspective. But each is enjoyable. Unfortunately, you are probably going to want both of these discs. We should all have such problems.
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