Flute Sonatas by the Bach Sons
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784) Sonata in E minor BR WFB B 17 (ca. 1742-45?) [11:37]
Johann Christian BACH (1735- 1782) Sonata in F major H 597 (ca. 1750-55?) [10:29]
? BACH (1702 - 1774) Sonata in F minor [8:47]
Johann Christoph Friedrich BACH (1732-1795) Sonata in D minor HW VIII/3 No. 1 (1777) [23:38]
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784) Sonata in F major BR WFB B 18 (ca. 1742-45?) [10:59]
Johann Christian BACH (1735- 1782) Sonata in D major op 16/1 W B 10 (1779) [10:32]
Barthold Kuijken (flute); Ewald Demeyere (harpsichord)
rec. October 2008, Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, The Netherlands. DDD
ACCENT ACC24216 [75:56]

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.

Carla Rees