Frederick II: Flute Sonatas

Claudia Stein flute, Andreas Greger cello, Alessandro De Marchi fortepiano
Naxos 8.574250

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Adolph Menzel’s stunning painting of Frederick the Great presenting a candle-lit flute concert with his chamber orchestra attests to the fact that the Prussian king was no mere dilettante, a fact reinforced by his cultivation of a number of the finest musicians in Europe at his court, as well as his own surviving music for flute. The performers here present six of Frederick’s flute sonatas, as well as a set of variations for flute and continuo by Alessandro De Marchi on one of them, the C major sonata, a cello piece by De Marchi and piano music by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg. The royal sonatas prove to be both imaginative, and perhaps unsurprisingly make superb use of the flute. These recordings are lent a rather distinctive colour by the continuo use of fortepiano and Baroque cello, but puzzlingly, and a little disappointingly, Claudia Stein plays a modern flute. She has a good grasp of the idiom of this music, but her tone is rather metallic, a feature exaggerated by the rather ‘close’ recording of her instrument. It does seem odd to me to combine a modern solo instrument with such a delightfully period continuo ensemble – the variety of tonal textures the fortepiano contributed is a revelation. On the other hand, four of the works here are receiving their world premiere recordings and the rest are hardly well known, so the musicians are to be congratulated in their presentation of this underrated repertoire.

D. James Ross

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