RECORD OF THE MONTH
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784)
Trio in D, Falck Nr. 48 for two flutes and continuo [10:03]
Trio in a minor Falck Nr. 49 for two flutes and continuo [5:29]
Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst BACH (1759-1845)
Trio in G for two flutes and viola [20:16]
Johann Christian BACH (1735-1782)
Trio in C, Terry 317/2 for two flutes and bass [10:20]
Johann Christoph Friederich BACH (1732-1795)
Trio in C, HW VII/7 for two flutes with harpsichord obbligato [15:35]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Trio in E, Wqu 580 for two flutes and continuo [17:29]
Hansgeorg Schmeiser (flute)
Jan Ostrý (flute)
Eszter Haffner (viola)
Othmar Müller (cello)
Ingomar Rainer (harpsichord)
rec. Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK, 21-25 September, 2008.
NIMBUS NI 5869 [79:22]
Imagine what it must have been like to have grown up in the household of Johann Sebastian Bach. There were twenty children, ten of whom survived into adulthood and four of whom became significant composers. They all lived under the watchful and stern eye of the man most regard as the greatest composer ever to have lived. It is little wonder that the four brothers scattered to the four corners of the earth to establish their own remarkable and quite diverse lives and careers.
Perhaps thanks to Frederick the Great, the flute had by the middle of the eighteenth century become the instrument of choice for gentle and educated amateurs. That Johann Joachim Quantz dedicated his entire career to the instrument and that many other major composers wrote extensively for it is testament to its importance in the realm of wealthy, aristocratic musical patrons.
This collection features a number of fine chamber works for two flutes and represents all four of Sebastian Bach’s composer sons and one of his grandsons.
In his excellent program note, Ingomar Rainer argues that perhaps this music was never intended for listeners at all, rather for the sole enjoyment of the players themselves, and that it was never meant to be heard outside the private chambers of amateurs. If this is the case, we would be all the worse off, for this is music that if lacking in profundity, is more than enjoyable in terms of its elegance, charm and grace. Indeed, no listener will leave the room whistling some memorable or monumental tune. If however, that listener is attuned to fine craftsmanship and is in the mood for some soothing and non-invasive musical entertainment, there is much pleasure to be had in this collection of trios for two flutes with sundry accompanying instruments.
Our assembled cast of performers is of the first order. What I found particularly impressive is the way these players can take music that is not particularly virtuosic and play it so elegantly and without condescension. By that I mean, the listener never gets a sense that these works are anything less than masterpieces in spite of their relative simplicity. Each ensemble - the five musicians here team up in various combinations as the music requires - is marked by deft attention to detail. Of especial merit is Mr. Rainer’s fine harpsichord playing in J.C.F. Bach’s lovely trio. There is some fleet finger-work going on here and Rainer pulls off some pretty flashy passages with elegance and panache. Our two flutists are splendidly paired. They surely got good marks on their school reports for “playing well with others” as they demonstrate a strong sense of collegiality that serves the music beautifully.
Nimbus as always gives us a beautiful package with warm clear sound, nice balance between the instruments and the aforementioned superb booklet essay. This is a lovely hour and a quarter.
Elegant chamber music perfect for your next dinner party or evening alone with a good book and a glass of fine wine. Fine playing all round by a well matched and collegial ensemble.
Kevin Sutton sings, conducts, writes, broadcasts and teaches in Dallas, TX. You can read his essays and commentaries at www.thetenordiaries.blogspot.com.