Review: Flutist Emmanuel Pahud blows away Abravanel Hall crowd

Emmanuel Pahud
Salt Lake Tribune

By Catherine Reese Newton

World-class flutist shows stunning artistry in three diverse works.

How did the Utah Symphony follow up last weekend’s opening gala featuring three world-class soloists? By inviting one world-class soloist to play three diverse works.

Emmanuel Pahud, who was named principal flutist in the Berlin Philharmonic at the astonishing age of 22 (he’s now 43), is arguably the top flutist in the world right now. In fact, it’s difficult to argue with Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer’s billing of him as the top soloist on any instrument. Pahud possesses not only a phenomenal technique, but an equally phenomenal musicality.

The flutist began with Elliott Carter’s Flute Concerto, which Pahud himself premiered. Like most of Carter’s work, it’s a bit thorny, but don’t be afraid — it comes off much better live than in recording. Fischer and the orchestra provided sensitive accompaniment to Pahud’s artistry. Next came the flutist’s arrangement of Lenski’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” in a performance of breathtaking beauty. Pahud returned after intermission to play Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2. The impeccably phrased performance was highlighted by a playful cadenza in which the soloist seemed to tantalize the audience, fittingly enough, with snippets from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

As if that weren’t enough, a rousing ovation brought Pahud back to the stage — carrying two flutes. He and Fischer, who enjoyed success as a flutist before turning to conducting, gave a delightful performance of the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” from Gluck’s “Orpheus and Eurydice.”

Fischer sandwiched Pahud’s appearance between two orchestral showpieces: a dramatic performance of Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular “1812” Overture and a richly colored rendition of Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” Suite that made the listener hope that the conductor will appear in the Utah Opera pit sometime soon.