I wasn't really in the mood for Mozart's Flute Quartets when I inadvertently loaded this CD into the disc player. Expecting something completely different after pressing Play, instead the most joyous flute tone rang out, singing one of Mozart's most delightful creations. And I stopped in my tracks and sat myself down, completely transfixed.
This is certainly the best recording of Mozart's Flute Quartets I've come across in a long while. And from a name completely new to me, making it all the more exciting!
Finnish flutist, Sami Junnonen impresses in every conceivable way in Mozart, as does his superb trio of string players, who are members of the Chamber Domaine.
Readers of this blog may remember seeing my comprehensive survey of the Mozart Flute Quartets in May 2021 (17 recordings in all). I had not heard this newer (2018) recording at the time or it surely would have been included in the top-most category along with the other lofty residents: Oxalys (flutist Toon Fret), Karl-Heinz Schutz and Gary Schocker. Putting this newcomer into perspective within that context, Junnonen combines the amazing variety of tone and vibrato of Fret (Oxalys), with the most gracious musical phrasing of Schutz, and the joyful invigoration of Schocker. That is quite an achievement! And a miraculous combination.
Not only that, Junnonen has the advantage of playing with some of the most inspiring, musically involving string players on record. They play with the utmost musical phrasing, spontaneity and crisp articulation, bringing life and jubilation everywhere. And listen to their marvelous pizzicatos in the Adagio of the D Major - so tuneful, colorful and harmonically chordal, yet delicately phrased, while Junnonen's flute sings resplendently above it. And the tempo doesn't sag (as it so often does); it has a natural, forward-moving expression just perfect for the music. I don't ever remember hearing such loveliness from this movement before.
As to Sami Junnonen, he possesses a clear, sparkling, radiant tone which is a joy to listen to. But he varies it, along with his vibrato and articulation, to bring endless variety, interest and musical purpose. And best of all, his tone remains vibrant and expressive even at pianissimo and with minimal vibrato. It never wilts or becomes deadpan as can happen when some flutists attempt this. It truly is marvelous flute sound.
Also notable are his dynamic range and supreme breath control. He can play complete phrases - and then some - without breaking for a breath. It is amazing how long he can sustain a phrase, and it sounds so musically right to hear such considered and competent phrasing.
Fortunately, Resonus Classics provides lovely recorded sound - clean, clear, richly colorful and perfectly focused; the group is realistically placed within a warm acoustic, with just the perfect amount of reverberation. There is also an excellent booklet with informative notes about the music and musicians, along with high-quality, glossy photos.
To sum up: this is some of the most joyful Mozart I've come across - at all times fresh and sparkling, full of life and spontaneity, and supremely musical. Mr. Junnonen truly delivers the best of the best in flute playing in this music, and I enjoyed it from beginning to end even though I've listened to recordings of these quartets literally hundreds of times.
I look forward to more recordings from this wonderful flutist on this label and will definitely be looking for more recordings from Chamber Domaine as well.