This is an interesting disc of music by J.S. Bach’s sons,
showing the wealth of output from the family, and providing a
wonderful opportunity to hear some lesser-known works from the
baroque and classical eras.
Of the two eldest sons, C.P.E. Bach is the best known, although
Wilhelm Friedeman was said to have been Bach’s favourite
despite a less successful professional life. His E minor Sonata
is heard first here, a rhythmically vivacious work heard in a
well-punctuated performance with clarity of sound and excellent
ensemble. Barthold Kuijken plays a copy of a flute from the period
by August Drenser, making a clear and expressive tone. The music
has a distinctive character which comes across well in this performance,
with technical challenges well managed and a lovely sense of
melodic line throughout.
Johann Christian Bach studied with his brother C.P.E. Bach after
their father’s death, and then moved to Italy, where he
became a Catholic and studied counterpoint with Padre Martini.
In 1762 he travelled to London, where he enjoyed an excellent
reputation as a composer and socialite. His F major sonata is
a lyrical work, with a strong sense of partnership between the
flute and harpsichord. There are a number of melodic fragments
shared between the parts, and the charming Allegretto has
a wonderful lightness of touch.
The third sonata on the disc is labeled as by ‘Bach?’,
one of a number of similarly designated works found in libraries
around Europe. With this sonata, another version of the same
work exists, scored for flute, violin and continuo. There are
four extant manuscripts of the piece, some pointing towards C.P.E.
Bach and one labeled as J.C. Bach. However it’s not listed
in C.P.E. Bach’s own catalogue of works. It is an interesting
mystery, which goes some way to demonstrate the importance of
practice-based research by intelligent performers who have a
thirst for knowledge about the repertoire they perform. Its unknown
authorship does not detract from it as a well written and enjoyable
work, with finely formed phrases and stylish lines.
J.C.F. Bach’s D minor sonata is a more complex work in
fast-slow-fast form, with a heavy feel to the opening movement.
The harpsichord part is an obbligato and contains most of the
technical challenges, with the flute largely taking on an accompanying
role. The slow movement has a recitative feel, with the instruments
sharing the melodic line. This is an unusually extended movement,
lasting just over nine minutes. The explosive Allegro finale
provides an impressively energetic contrast.
Another Wilhelm Friedemann Bach work follows, in the form of
an F major sonata. The texture is less dense than the J.C.F.
Bach work, with a much simpler harpsichord part providing a sense
of lightness. The harmonic language is interesting, with some
unexpected chromaticism appearing in the first movement. The
slow movement is relatively simple and soundly crafted, despite
its brevity, while the final movement is a moderately paced vivace.
The final work on the disc is a further sonata by Johan Christian
Bach. With a majestic opening, this two movement sonata has a
lyrical first movement which is Classical in style and well proportioned.
The second movement is equally elegant with graceful phrasing
and attractive lines.
This is an enjoyable disc with excellent playing from Kuijken
and Demeyere. The repertoire is fascinating, and although not
as well known as the flute sonatas by J.S. or C.P.E. Bach, these
pieces have much to offer.