Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
A Tribute to Bach
Adagio from the Sinfonia to the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 [3:29]
Sonata in B minor, BWV 1030 [17:15]
Bete aber auch dabei from Cantata Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115 [8:09]
Solo (Partita) in A minor, BWV 1013 [19.33]
Sonata in A major for obbligato harpsichord and flute, BWV 1032 [13:19]
Doch weichet, ihr tollen vergeblichen Sorgen! from Cantata Liebster Gott, wenn wird ich sterben? BWV 8 [5:02]
Ich habe genug from Cantata Ich habe genug, BWV 82a [6:55]
Sonata for flute and continuo in E minor, BWV 1034 [15:08]
Ermuntre dich from Cantata Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180 [4:22]
Concerto in A minor, BWV 1056 (arr. Brown) [9:08]
Wo wird in diesem Jammerthale from Cantata Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost, BWV 114 [10:10]
Sonata for flute and continuo in E major, BWV 1035 [11:52]
Adagio from Vivaldi’s violin Concerto in G major, RV 299, arr. Bach BWV 973 (arr. Brown) [2:17]
Rachel Brown (flute)
London Handel Players (Adrian Butterfield and Oliver Webber (violins); Peter Collyer (viola); Katherine Sharman (cello); Peter Buckoke (double bass)); Laurence Cummings (harpsichord, organ); Elizabeth Cragg (soprano); Charles Daniels (tenor); Peter Harvey (baritone)
rec. July, September, November 2013, St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow, London
UPPERNOTE UPCD003 [67:25 + 61:07]
Rachel Brown is a well-known performer and scholar on period flutes. She has served for many years as principal flute with the Academy of Ancient Music, the Hanover Band, the Kings Consort, Collegium Musicum 90, Ex Cathedra, the Brandenburg Consort and Arcangelo. This is her third album on Uppernote, her own recording label and publishing house. It is dedicated to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Bach wrote a number of pieces for flute. The Easter Oratorio exists in a later version for flute and strings. Rachel Brown does an admirable job in sustaining the long line, given that the oboe, the instrument for which it was originally written, is much better than the flute at sustaining long lines.
While the authorship of some of Bach’s flute sonatas is disputed, the four sonatas presented on this album are considered by most scholars genuine works by Bach. The Sonata in B minor BWV 1030 is the longest and the most complex. Brown takes the first movement at a broad tempo, and supplies some ornaments on top of the already-ornamented melody in the Siciliano. The last movement is played with lots of forward momentum.
Bete aber auch dabei from Cantata Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115 is scored for soprano, flute, five-string cello piccolo and organ continuo. It is not the most memorable piece ever written by Bach, though it is well-performed by the musicians here.
The Solo (Partita) in A minor BWV 1013, for unaccompanied flute, is monumental and taxes the flautist’s technique and endurance to the limit. Rachel Brown copes with well with these demands. Her playing of this piece is in some ways quite romantic. The third movement Sarabande is very richly ornamented by Brown, and is too ornate for my taste. The concluding Bourrée Anglaise is given a lively reading, again with some ornaments added by Brown.
Part of the first movement of the Sonata in A major BWV 1032 is missing, and on this recording Rachel Brown plays her own completion. It is a work of a sunny disposition and provides suitable relief from the minor-keyed Partita.
Doch weichet, ihr tollen vergeblichen Sorgen! from Cantata Liebster Gott, wenn wird ich sterben? BWV 8 features some very high writing for the flute. The sense of joy is obvious even without reference to the text. Baritone Peter Harvey, probably with ensemble balance in mind, sings with power in reserve.
Disc 2 opens with Ich habe genug, from Cantata Ich habe genug BWV 82a, in the alternative version for soprano, flute, strings and continuo. It is well sung and played by the ensemble.
The Sonata for flute and continuo in E minor, BWV 1034 opens with a wistful Adagio ma non tanto. Brown captures the mood very well and is very responsive to the harmonic changes. The playing of the second movement is agile and crisp, and her excellent breath control enables her to play the long phrases effortlessly. The concluding two movements are similarly well played.
Emuntre dich, dein Heiland klopft from Cantata Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180 features staccato passages for flute and tenor throughout, well played and sung by Brown and tenor Charles Daniels.
The Flute Concerto in A minor BWV 1056 is Brown’s arrangement of the Harpsichord Concerto in F minor BWV 1056. As is often the case with works transcribed from harpsichord concertos, the soloist has to play a lot of busy figurations, which the soloist here Brown does with aplomb.
Wo wird in diesem Jammerthale from Cantata Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost, BWV 114 is the most sorrowing piece on this album and the players capture the mood well. The Sonata for flute and continuo in E major, BWV 1035 that follows provides a happy contrast, and is extremely well played. A short Adagio from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in G major, RV 299, arranged by Bach (BWV 973), closes out the album.
Rachel Brown is a sensitive musician in total command of her instrument. Two flutes, copies of original instruments by Scherer and Rottenburgh, are used. Her playing on this album is largely exemplary, and she is nicely supported by her fellow musicians and singers. This is a small ensemble and the vocal soloists have scaled down their voices accordingly. The programme notes, in English only, are written by Rachel Brown and showcase her scholarship. The sung texts are provided in their original German as well as in the flautist's English translation.
Wai Kit Leung