BACH, J.S.: Flute Sonatas, Vol. 1

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 -1750)

Flute Sonatas Vol.l

Sonata in E minor for flute and continuo, BWV 1034

Sonata in E flat major for flute and harpsichord, BWV1031

Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013

Sonata in A major for flute and harpsichord, BWV 1032


In a letter to a friend in 1750 Padre Martini, a dominantfigure in Italian music, wrote that he considered it unnecessary to describethe unique merits of

Bach, who was quite well known and admired, not only in Germanybut everywhere in Italy too: he could only add that it would be difficult tofind a master better than him, since he could with justification be describedas one of the foremost musicians of Europe.


The importance of Johann Sebastian Bach to Western musiccontinues to the present. He was once regarded as one who provided a synthesis,a summary of the skills and grandeur of the past, offering a perfection in hisown period, but suggesting no way forward. This view is now seen to beerroneous. The music of Bach is like a vast lake into which rivers have flowedand which continues to provide his posterity with a source of spiritual andmusical refreshment. No musician can train for his profession without cominginto contact with the music of this composer, arguably the greatest of all time.

The works of Bach are, indeed, a compendium of all that is needed forkeyboard-players, violinists, cellists and flautists.


The biography of Bach written by Johann Nicolaus Forkel(1749-1818) and published in 1802, based on conversations with Bach's sonsWilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel and on other first-hand sources, remainsthe foundation of Bach historical scholarship, In his catalogue of Bach'scompositions Forkel regrettably passes over the flute sonatas with barely acomment: Many single Sonatas for the harpsichord with accompaniment of violin,flute, viola da gamba, &c., all admirably composed and so that even in ourdays most of them would be heard by connoisseurs with pleasure.


The history of the flute sonatas is not clear. It is probablethat most of them were written while Bach was in the service of Prince Leopoldof Anhalt-Cothen. At the time it could hardly have been imagined that the smalltown of Cothen, thirty kilometres north of Halle, would be remembered inhistory as one of the most important centres of music of the day. PrinceLeopold was a young man who loved music and who gradually expanded his courtorchestra to eighteen members. He engaged Johann Sebastian Each asKapellmeister in 1717 and it is interesting to notice, as an illustration ofthe esteem in which Bach was held, that his salary was twice that of hispredecessor. The Prince was an accomplished musician himself and played theviolin, viol and harpsichord and the court orchestra was fortunate in itsharmonious working conditions, with a friendly relationship and mutualunderstanding between the musicians and their patron.


All performances at Cothen took place at court, withother courtiers taking part, as they wished or as they were requested. Thereformed religion made no demand for church music, allowing Bach full scope forthe devising of secular entertainments, although, from his previous andsubsequent employment, posterity may remember him as a church organist. Theperiod in Cothen, however, saw the composition of some of the most significant instrumentalcompositions in Western music, the Two- and Three-Part Inventions, the FrenchSuites, Preludes and Fugues (the first book of the Well-TemperedClavier), the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, the CelloSuites, the Sonatas for harpsichord and violin or viola da gamba,the Brandenburg Concertos, some of the Orchestral Suites and the Sonatasfor flute and harpsichord or flute and continuo.


Not many manuscripts survive from Bach's period at Cothenand most such

material comes from the subsequent period of 27 yearsspent in Leipzig. It

seems, however, that many of the flute sonatas arearrangements of earlier compositions; the Trio Sonata for two flutes andcontinuo was originally a sonata for harpsichord and viola da gamba and thelast movement also exists in a version for organ. The harpsichord part of thegreat Sonata in B minor has also been preserved in an earlier version inG minor. Each later arranged a number of his Cothen works for the concerts ofhis Leipzig University Collegium Musicum, for which all the harpsichordconcertos were devised. In arranging his earlier trio sonatas for soloinstrument and keyboard, he laid the foundation for a genre that continuestoday. This type of sonata was transmitted, through Bach's sons, to classicaland romantic composers.


The flute sonatas of Bach were probably inspired by localflautists whose dexterity is obvious from the demanding solo parts written byEach in his cantatas and settings of the Passion. His visit in 1747 to thecourt of Frederick the Great, whose ability as a flautist was well known,probably produced the Sonata in E major as well as the MusicalOffering on a theme provided by the King. Some of Bach's flute sonatas(notably EWV 1031, 1020 and 1030) have been attributed to his son Carl PhilippEmanuel, harpsichordist to Frederick the Great. In contrast with the youngercomposer's keyboard sonatas, it might be suspected that, if they were the workof Carl Philipp Emanuel, they were written under his father's influence ordirect guidance. This in no way detracts from the value of these works, whichremain among the best loved of the repertoire.


Anssi Mattila


There is a distinction to be drawn between Bach's worksfor solo instrument and harpsichord, such as the three sonatas with viola da gamba,BWV 1027-1029, or the six violin sonatas, BWV 1014-1019, and those written forsolo melody instrument and continuo. The former have a composed harpsichord partand are for the most part in a three-part texture, like the organ trio sonatas,BWV 525-530. With the written harpsichord part this generally means threecontrapuntal melodic lines, one for the melody instrument, one for the righthand of the keyboard-player and the other for the left hand. The sonatas forsolo instrument and continuo provide the performers with a solo melodic partand a figured bass, a bass line with numbers that indicate the chord to be usedand on which the keyboard-player might improvise an accompaniment.


The first volume of Bach flute sonatas opens with the Sonatain E minor, BWV 1034, for transverse flute and continuo. This has generallybeen dated to Bach's period at Cothen, although more recent scholarship haspreferred to date the composition to the early period in Leipzig, starting in1723. The sonata opens with an Adagio, the flute weaving a melody abovean initially ascending, slower moving bass-line. The second movement Allegroentrusts the theme to the flute, to be imitated by the bass-line and to beallowed further entries, as the mo
Item number 8553754
Barcode 730099475426
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Baroque
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Mattila, Anssi
Rautasalo, Jukke
Alanko, Petri
Mattila, Anssi
Rautasalo, Jukke
Alanko, Petri
Producers Ponder, Michael
Ponder, Michael
Disc: 1
Flute Sonata, A major, BWV 1032
1 Adagio ma non tanto
2 Allegro
3 Andante
4 Allegro
5 Allegro moderato
6 Siciliana
7 Allegro
8 Allemande
9 Corrente
10 Sarabande
11 Bouree Anglaise
12 Vivace
13 Largo e dolce
14 Allegro
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