Barthold Kuijken – French Flute Music: The Accent Recordings 1979-2003

With Robert Cohen, Wieland Kuijken, Marc Hantai, Frank Theuns, Serge Saitta, Sigiswald Kuijken, Ryo Terakado, Sara Kuijken
642’ (11 CDs in a box)
Accent ACC 24312

In my review of The Artistry of Barthold Kuijken, an anthology of highlights from his recordings on the Accent label released in 2008, I said that listening to it made me want to hear the complete CDs from which the tracks were taken. That wish certainly came home to roost when I was given the rather daunting task of reviewing this boxed set of eleven CDs which brings together Kuijken’s recordings of French music made on the Accent label between 1979 and 2003. In fact listening to them has been a most pleasurable experience. The first CD, issued in 1979 and also entitled French Flute Music, gives an overview of music from the reign of Louis XV with one piece each by Montéclair, Blavet, Guignon, Boismortier and Leclair. Each of the other ten CDs is devoted to a single composer. Hotteterre’s Premier et Deuxième Livre de Pièces pour la Flûte Traversière avec la Basse occupy two CDs, as do François Couperin’s Les Nations and Leclair’s Complete Flute Sonatas, originally for violin. The single CDs are of Couperin’s Concerts Royaux, Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts, Boismortier’s Concertos for Five Flutes Op. 15 and Devienne’s Flute quartets. I really enjoyed this last CD when I reviewed it when it first appeared, but French musical style had certainly changed by 1784 and after ten CDs of baroque music it sounded strangely out of place. I’d certainly recommend listening to it on a different day if you buy this set. Two of my surprise favourites were the Boismortier concertos for five flutes without continuo which are interspersed with pieces for one, two or three flutes, and the Hotteterre Pièces. Hotteterre supplied detailed instructions for ornamentation which can make them sound rather laboured in performance but Kuijken really brings them to life on a copy of a Hotteterre flute of about 1710, five years before this elegant music was published. This splendid set works out at less than £3 a CD if you buy it online.

Victoria Helby