Pahud and pace: pure gold

Yefim Bronfman, Emmanuel Pahud
Today's Zaman (Istanbul)

By Alexandra Ivanoff

With his gleaming gold flute, Emmanuel Pahud and his pianist, Yefim Bronfman, gave a concert of breathtaking beauty and superlative musicianship on Dec. 8 at I?s¸ Sanat.  And their interpretations of music by Schumann, Brahms, Mozart and Prokofiev set a gold standard with these four golden classics.

In Robert Schumann’s “Three Romances,” Pahud’s beefy sound throughout the compass of his instrument, especially in the low range, convinced me that these pieces, originally composed for oboe and piano, could succeed with the flute. In fact, his exquisite phrasing and feathered endings with many perilously soft and sustained high notes actually appeared to be more appropriate for the flute. But it was his sumptuous tone enriching these three perfumed flowers that began the evening, and they were just the harbinger of things to come.

In Johannes Brahms’ Sonata No. 2 in E-flat major, originally for clarinet and piano (and often played also by the viola), Pahud captured the richness of this German romantic piece and didn’t allow it to sound like an overly delicate adaptation. He had enough power to pump out the many low notes in the martial mid-section of the second movement that needed military brawn. And it appeared that Bronfman didn’t hold back; because of Pahud’s potent tone, he was able to give full weight to the keyboard’s knuckle-busting role.

Their way with Mozart’s Sonata No. 21 in E minor (originally for violin) brought out the crystalline clarity of Mozart’s magical textures with deft precision and lightness, especially in the Minuet’s rolling lines of fulsome melodies and oddball departures from the template, which included a sudden chromatic solo cadenza in the piano and plunging low notes for the flute. Then the duo launched into one of the flute repertoire’s original tour-de-force masterpieces, Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata in D Major, a maelstrom of fiendish technical demand and incandescent beauty. The first movement is like a circus: full of musical cartwheels and high-wire derring-do. The second, a scherzo-presto is a beehive where the workforce is buzzing alongside a haunting little air for the queen bee, and their dizzying race to the end is an exhilarating ride. The slightly jazzy third movement’s lazy theme wanders around in search of a new home, and the fourth movement takes us back to the circus’ three-ring show of full-blown bravura, percussive punch and hilarious hocus-pocus. Pahud and Bronfman couldn’t have been more gleaming in their bejeweled performance.