Today's lunchtime Chamber Music Prom featured Emmanuel Pahud, paying us a flying visit from his regular job as principal flautist of the Berlin Philharmonic (literally - he's flying back to Berlin for a concert in the evening). Pahud also does a lot of solo and chamber work; today, he was joined by his regular accompanist and compatriot Eric Le Sage in a programme of music written during the second world war.

© Sheila Rock
© Sheila Rock

As a non-flautist, I had a distinct feeling of being in a minority in the audience, and it wasn't hard to see why. The flute is an instrument that makes technical demands that are quite different from those of many other instruments, you don't see all that much flute music on concert programmes, and Pahud is a master of the instrument. One flautist sitting next to me had travelled from Dorset for this one hour recital.

The variety and challenge of the flute's soundscape was best shown off in the short piece in the middle of the concert: Dutilleux's 1943 Sonatine, written as an examination piece for the Paris Conservatoire. The flute has little equivalent of the control of bowing pressure and position available to a string player, and dynamic control is hard both at the quiet end (if you play too soft, no sound comes out at all) and at the load end (it can shriek). Expression, therefore, is mainly achieved by rhythmic variation and phrasing, together with the beautiful purity of tone that can be achieved when playing long notes. Pahud stunned us with extraordinary acceleration and lightness of touch in the faster passages, and with delicacy and lovely purity in the slower ones. The Sonatine also shows off an array of tricks in breath control, which he negotiated with flourish.

Cadogan Hall is a challenging venue for the flute (in the original sense of the word): the acoustics are crystal clear and you can hear every nuance of the instrument's sonic quality. We would have heard every tiny imperfection - except that there were hardly any to hear.

I wasn't quite so convinced by the opening work, Martinů's Flute Sonata, written in 1945  in Cape Cod, safely away from the ravages of warfare. It's a relentlessly cheerful work in which Martinů gives free rein to his full and idiosyncratic imagination, and while I liked individual elements and enjoyed the lyrical second movement, I found it difficult to get any overall sense of direction and my attention wandered in the first and third movements. But I had no such trouble with the Prokofiev Op. 94 sonata, which radiated joy, lightness and good humour. The scherzo is a marvellous piece, almost a sonata in miniature with a slow passage between mercurial opening and closing themes, and the rondo finale a merry dance. Pahud played it all with more Parisian elegance than Russian exuberance, and Le Sage's accompaniment, at turns joyful and refined, was a delight.

We had a encore in the shape of the Fauré Fantaisie, Op. 79 (another Paris Conservatoire piece) which was described appropriately by presenter Catherine Bott as "edible". Bott is an engaging presenter, and her brief mid-recital interview with Pahud was interesting and informative. I wish we had that sort of thing in every concert rather than the austere expectation that the audience knows everything they need to know.

A fine hour's entertainment ended with an audience full of very happy flautists.