Wilhelm Friedmann BACH (1710-1784) Six Duos for two flutes
Sonata No.1 in E minor (Falck 54) (1724-1729) [10:12]
Sonata No.2 in G major (Falck 59) (1724-1729) [9:01]
Sonata No.3 in E flat major (Falck 55) [12:22]
Sonata No.4 in F major (Falck 57) [14:26]
Sonata No.5 in E flat major (Falck 56) [14:22]
Sonata No.6 in F minor (Falck 58) [8:16]
Gudrún Birgisdóttir and Martial Nardeau (flutes)
rec. August 2011, The Evangelic Church, Mikolów
This sequence of W.F. Bach’s flute duos has never been satisfactorily dated beyond doubt. To avoid running chronologically the programme intersperses early with middle and later sonatas, so that the stylistic paths down which Bach trod can best be distributed without too much concentration on the more pragmatic early two sonatas. These are certainly most attractive works but they are also the most formulaic, which is hardly surprising if they were written, as some have suggested, when he was 14.
The first sonata is clear and cleanly written, stylish and quite demanding in places. It sounds rather like an arrangement of a solo harpsichord suite or sonata. The second sonata is similarly light and avuncular with an especially pirouetting series of episodes in the finale. The Third Sonata, which may have been written when Bach was living in Dresden, reveals typically adroit writing, but whilst its melodies are quite simple, it’s not so expressive a work as one might have imagined. The Fourth, also probably a Dresden composition, is full of canny melodic distribution, which ensures that neither flautist is in danger of obstructing the other. Registral control, timing of runs, avian trilling and supportive harmonies — all these qualities are firmly embedded in the sonata, and Bach adds little rococo flourishes, as well as unisons and quietly virtuoso panache.
No.5 fuses refined lyricism and elevated counterpoint typical of his best instrumental writing, and adds a testing articulation conundrum or two in the finale. The final Sonata is more sophisticated yet, in terms of its contrapuntal writing, and also much tauter than the Fifth, though no less impressive.
Both flautists perform with admirable ensemble, and Gudrún Birgisdóttir and Martial Nardeau are alert to the music’s twists and turns. At first I was concerned that the church acoustic draped too benevolent an echo, or acoustic halo, on the instruments, but I got used to it.
Jonathan Woolf
Refined lyricism and elevated counterpoint.