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Hyperion Records

CDA67897 - Bach: Flute Sonatas
A young woman in a Russian hat, holding a book (detail) by Pietro Antonio Rotari (1707-1762)
Sotheby’s Picture Library

Recording details: December 2011
Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: February 2013
DISCID: 45124615
Total duration: 77 minutes 48 seconds


'Oliva's modern silver flute has a glorious shimmering quality and an even tone … the combination of these two sensitive artists creates some memorable moments. Best is the Sonata No 1 in B minor with its meditative opening, each part drifting in, its harmony wandering as if at will, duplets gently merging into triplets and back again. The simplicity of the slow movement is entrancing … Oliva's breath-control is astonishing, Hewitt's clean articulation exemplary … this is an inspired modern-instrument take on Bach' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Beyond doubt … are the taste and poise of these performances by Angela Hewitt and Andrea Oliva. The cream of the crop is perhaps Bach's B minor Sonata BWV1030, but the entire set is a cornucopia of lithe invention' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Oliva … is evidently an outstanding player … Hewitt is a model of discretion and elegance' (The Guardian)

'Andrea Oliva and Angela Hewitt relish the flowing nature of such delightful pieces, always bringing a gentle lilt and lift to the proceedings … devotees of counterpoint will not be disappointed either, and will relish Hewitt's ability to point up canons and imitative effects in the keyboard parts, as well as her always refined use of staccato … Oliva's elegance of phrasing and breath control are everywhere exemplary' (International Record Review)

Flute Sonatas
Allegro moderato  [4'03]
Siciliano  [2'09]
Allegro  [5'01]
[Allegro]  [4'12]
Adagio  [2'34]
Allegro  [5'06]
Andante  [1'40]
Allegro  [2'37]
Adagio  [1'49]
Allegro  [2'44]
Andante  [3'57]
Allegro  [4'49]
Allegro  [3'06]
Siciliano  [3'41]
Allegro assai  [3'15]
Andante  [7'54]
Largo e dolce  [4'23]

Fans of Angela Hewitt will be delighted to find her in chamber mode, accompanying Andrea Oliva (described as ‘one of the best flutists of his generation, a shining star in the world of the flute’ by Sir James Galway) in a programme of J S Bach’s flute sonatas (including one by his most famous and talented son, CPE). Of unfailingly remarkable quality, all these works exploit the full potential of an instrument which was only just coming into its own when they were written. Oliva’s lyricism and agility coupled with Hewitt’s musicianship—not to mention her lifelong rapport with Bach’s music—make this an album to treasure.

Other recommended albums
'Bach: Goldberg Variations' (CDA67305)
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'Bach & Telemann: Oboe & Oboe d'amore Concertos' (CDH55269)
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'Handel: Fireworks Music & Water Music' (CDH55375)
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'Purcell: Ten Sonatas in Four Parts' (CKD332)
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'Shostakovich: The Complete String Quartets' (CDS44091/6)
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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
One of the most distinctive changes in the woodwind instrument family during the mid to late Baroque period was the gradual disappearance of the recorder and the emergence of the transverse flute. Quantz in Germany and Hotteterre in France had a powerful influence in the development of the flute, while other composers, too, such as Bach, Telemann, Blavet and Leclair, explored its technical and expressive potential with challenging and richly inventive repertoire. In the opera orchestras of the time, good mirrors for reflecting instrumental developments, recorders gradually yielded ground to the flute, though they were still held in reserve for the provision of special effects. Bach, in his Weimar cantatas, called exclusively upon recorders, introducing the transverse flute to them only in his second year at Leipzig. Thereafter, recorders occur infrequently, and mainly for lending colour to imagery, often pastoral, contained in the text. After about 1725 compositions specifically for or including recorder became increasingly rare, Handel’s half dozen or so sonatas for recorder and continuo, together with Bach’s F major harpsichord concerto (BWV1057), itself a reworking of Brandenburg Concerto No 4, being among the last significant works for the instrument.

The extent, if any, to which the Sonata in E flat major for flute and obbligato harpsichord, BWV1031, can be attributed to Bach remains in dispute. Probably dating from the early to mid-1730s this immediately appealing music may well be a joint venture of Bach himself and one or other of his two elder sons, perhaps Carl Philipp Emanuel. What is indisputable, however, is the high quality of its craftsmanship and its expressive charm. The opening Allegro moderato is introduced by a delightful eight-bar melody played by the harpsichord, after which the flute enters with the main theme. The Siciliano is rewardingly written for the flute, its musical substance recalling the first movement of Bach’s C minor Violin Sonata (BWV1017). In the spirited binary Allegro, with its repeated sections, there is effective interplay between the two upper parts, bringing this pleasing sonata to a lively conclusion.

Like the sonatas in E flat (BWV1031) and C major (BWV1033) the Sonata in G minor, BWV1020, is unlikely to be a product solely, if at all, of Bach’s pen. The equal partnership of flute and obbligato harpsichord and the galant gestures, especially of the fast movements, call to mind not only the E flat major Sonata (BWV1031), which may well have served as the model, but also the flute sonatas of Quantz and of other Berlin composers. Stylistically, it is the least ‘Bach-like’ of the three ‘doubtful’ sonatas and the present consensus of opinion inclines towards C P E Bach as its composer. One of the three surviving manuscripts is in his hand, while the other two simply carry the name ‘Bach’ at their head. Further doubt arises over the intended instrumentation for the G minor Sonata. The sources call for violin and harpsichord, yet the absence of any double-stopping has led musicians to believe it to have been a work for flute. Equally, though, an oboe qualifies for consideration on grounds of key, compass and apparent similarities between this piece and C P E Bach’s authentic Oboe Sonata in G minor (H566/Wq135).

The Sonata in C major for flute and continuo, BWV1033, is preserved in a manuscript in the hand of C P E Bach, dating from the early 1730s, and in which he attributes the piece to his father. Its origins are obscure and disparate, perhaps since its first two movements, at least, are arguably more convincing as pieces for an unaccompanied melody instrument. Yet, in spite of sequential and cadential crudities, the music is not without either merit or charm and is satisfying to play. There is a shapely nobility to the opening Andante, and a pleasing virtuosity, however simply conceived, in the ensuing Allegro. The music of greatest substance, though, is to be found in the Adagio which, like the concluding minuets, ‘alternativement’, is not devoid of Bachian character. Bach’s hand can surely be sensed, too, in the fully written-out parts of the first minuet which bears a relationship to a movement of a concerto by Bach’s Merseburg contemporary Christoph Förster. It has been suggested that the keyboard accompaniment was added later, perhaps by one of Bach’s pupils.

The Sonata in E minor for flute and continuo, BWV1034, is probably a product of Bach’s early Leipzig years. Bach’s autograph of the piece is lost but the earliest surviving material dates from circa 1726. Perhaps the first-composed of his flute sonatas, it alludes to the older formal scheme of the Italian sonata ‘da chiesa’. The opening Adagio ma non tanto contains an expansive, pleasingly shaped melody in a single unrepeated section. The following Allegro derives interest and energy from a progression of arpeggios of a kind favoured by Venetian violinist-composers. The emphasis in this movement is on virtuosity, though never for its own sake. The melody of the lyrical Andante is anchored to an almost uninterrupted quaver accompaniment in the bass betraying, once more, strong Italian leanings. The highly motivated concluding Allegro is binary and introduced by a single crotchet in the bass. Like the second movement, this one requires technical virtuosity.

Bach wrote the Sonata in E major for flute and continuo, BWV1035, during the last decade of his life. A nineteenth-century copy—no autograph has survived—suggests that the piece was written in 1741, when Bach made the first of two visits to Berlin, at the request of Frederick II’s chamberlain, Michael Gabriel Fredersdorf, who like his employer was a keen amateur flautist. The work begins with an Adagio ma non tanto whose expressive language calls to mind the sensitive inflections of the north German Empfindsamer Stil. The lively Allegro which follows is binary and straightforwardly argued. The Siciliano in C sharp minor is a subtler piece whose initial melody is echoed by the bass line but with some arresting harmonic progressions. The concluding Allegro assai is introduced by a playful theme on the flute. This is broken off, briefly, while the bass, in a flurry of semiquavers, finishes the phrase on its own. Then the flute resumes the melody, maintaining its predominance to the close.

The Sonata in B minor, BWV1030, together with the orchestral suite in the same key (BWV1067), is representative of Bach’s greatest contribution to the literature of the transverse flute. In an earlier form (c1729–1736) the work was written in G minor; but only the harpsichord part has survived, casting doubt over Bach’s choice of partnering instrument. Though sometimes played by an oboe in this version, there is no conclusive evidence to support its claim. The version in B minor for flute and obbligato harpsichord is preserved in an autograph dating from Bach’s middle Leipzig years (c1736). It is the most extended and most ambitious of all his flute sonatas, and striking for the freedom afforded the keyboard part in the thematically varied opening Andante. The contrapuntal texture is sustained throughout by Bach’s wonderfully imaginative technique while he further holds our interest through an intellectually disciplined organization of ideas. The Largo e dolce, in D major, is in the rhythm of a siciliano whose melody is almost entirely the preserve of the flute. From an expressive standpoint, the movement foreshadows the north German sensitive style cultivated by Bach’s elder sons, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel. The concluding movement is in two distinct sections, a fugue marked Presto and a Gigue. This scheme, unusual in Bach’s music, provides not only additional variety but also confirms the virtuosity and profusion of ideas characteristic of the entire sonata.

Nicholas Anderson © 2002

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