Any recording purporting to contain Bach’s "complete"
works for flute has to overcome an initial hurdle - which works will
it include? From spurious works to fragments, no recording of these
works meets with unanimous approval. The sonatas BWV 1020, 1031 and
1033 are "unlikely to be a product solely, if at all, of Bach’s
pen." And sonata BWV 1032 is incomplete, and is recorded here with
a completion by flautist Liza Beznosiuk. So why record these works if
they are not by Bach? Why complete a work whose manuscript is incomplete?
These issues are certainly of interest to musicologists,
but to the average music-lover who wants a set of Bach’s works for flute,
they are less of an issue. After all, some of Bach’s finest works were
probably written by others - I think of the famous Toccata and Fugue
in D minor for organ, which, according to current thinking, is not by
Bach. Nevertheless, the music on these two discs is delightful, intense,
profound and magnificent.
Lisa Beznosiuk is an fine flautist, and plays an excellent
sounding flute. The beginning section of the E minor sonata features
some low notes that highlight the instrumental purity she is capable
of attaining. Her performances are never flashy, but are efficiently
attractive. She seems to espouse this music with love and understanding,
and plays it with a great deal of feeling. The high point of her performance
is the demanding partita in A minor for solo flute. She gives a beautiful
reading of this work, showing the intensity of such a deceptively simple
yet profound partita. I would, however, find it even more attractive
with a bit less reverb on the recording.
The harpsichord is a bit distant at times; this is
apparent in its solo section at the opening of the A major sonata. It
sounds better in the B minor sonata for flute and harpsichord. There
is clearly a difference between the two recordings. But the overall
balance of the instruments is fine, and when the flute, cello and harpsichord
play together, such as in the E minor sonata, the sound is rich and
Bach wrote some beautiful music for the flute, yet
his most poignant moments for this instrument are in the arias with
obbligato flute in many of his sacred cantatas. One has the feeling
that he did not think as highly of the flute as a solo instrument, and
that he saw it mostly as an instrument to accompany voices. Nevertheless,
these two discs show the extent of his compositions for the flute in
chamber music, and bear witness to his extraordinary ability to compose
music that was idiomatic for almost any instrument.