CPE Bach’s works are rather odd by 18th-century standards, full of unusual harmonic twists and rhythmic U-turns. More than once you think you’ve got the measure of a piece, and then it switches to a completely new and different idea at the drop of a hat. It’s the idea of Sturm und Drang at its most raw.
You don’t get to be principal flautist of the Berlin Philharmonic for several decades without being pretty darn good and Emmanuel Pahud is essentially one of the best flautists in the world. Pahud and Trevor Pinnock have worked together on several discs now, and the combination of the two is remarkable. Pinnock has recorded a fair bit of CPE Bach – his recording of the Sinfonias is one of my all-time favourites – so he’s well-versed in these pieces.
As always, the conductor emphasises a crisp and powerful sound in the orchestra that perfectly suits this music with its sudden shifts and unexpected turns. Pahud’s performances are quite incredible. The Concerto in A Minor opens with a storm of sound that the soloist says is “furious to an extent you rarely find in other works’ finales, if at all”, and there are some runs in the opening that are, to put it frankly, jaw-dropping. In short, CPE Bach, Pahud and Pinnock prove an ideal combination. Highly, highly recommended.