There is nothing at all wrong with the playing here. And Pentatone's sound is certainly great - clear, clean, brightly lit and intimately focused. But throughout the entire disc, there is something missing. It all sounds bland. With the best flutists, these can be some of Mozart's most charming creations; but it requires more musical insight and character than Ulf-Dieter Schaaff brings to them. William Bennett (Philips), Rampal (CBS), and of course James Galway (RCA), immediately spring to mind as being far superior in this repertoire. All three flutists bring a characteristic vibrancy to their playing which springs this music to life in a way which eludes Ulf-Dieter Schaaff. He produces a clear, clean, bright tone which should work well in Mozart. Yet in its very clarity, it lacks character which would distinguish his playing from any other good player. To me it sounds detached and slightly cold, leaving his Mozart sounding blah.
But there is something else odd and, frankly, troubling, about this flute sound. First, it is most unfortunate he is tuned ever so slightly sharp to the strings - which exacerbates this feeling of coldness. Surely just four players could be better tuned with one another. Worse, he plays with a somewhat forced/pushy quality, making his tone sound overblown/blowzy - which I intensely dislike. Is there an acoustic issue which makes him think he needs to over-project over the 3 solo string players? Or, more likely, is he playing these pieces as if they are flute concertos rather than chamber music?
I must hasten to add that I have nothing but praise for this fabulous trio of string players with whom he plays. Mr. Schaaff is the principal flutist of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSB) and he handpicked these players from within the ranks of that orchestra. Their playing is characterful, crisply articulate and at all times musically stylish and alert.
I'm being very critical of Mr. Schaaff, I admit. But sampling any of the three alternatives mentioned above, one is immediately drawn into their playing in a way which curiously is missing on this Pentatone. I'd bet Schaaff would fare better in some 20th-Century flute repertoire available (perhaps the Jolivet Concerto, Dutilleux's Sonatine and Rodgrido's Concierto - wouldn't that make a splendid program!). If he's got the technical chops for this extremely difficult music, this would be a most welcome follow-up recording, perhaps with his own RSB orchestra. I'm just not sure he's really a chamber-music kind of player.
In sum, this Mozart disc is recommended for the great sound. But for truly great Mozart, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.