Bach: Complete Flute Sonatas, Vol. 1: BWV 1031, 1032, 1034, 1038 & 1079

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: Complete Flute Sonatas, Vol. 1: BWV 1031, 1032, 1034, 1038 & 1079
PERFORMER: Karl Kaiser (flute); Musica Alta Ripa
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 309 0931-2
In my previous benchmark, Stephen Preston (CRD) demonstrated remarkable subtleties of intonation, and tone qualities – clear open notes contrasting with veiled cross-fingering, terraced contrasts between registers – simply unavailable on the modern instrument. That, however, was recorded all of 25 years ago. Tastes change, including my own, and the warm, passionate approach of Kaiser, Bernward Lohr (harpsichord) and their continuo colleagues proves a seductive alternative to Preston’s cool restraint. Some devices have taken me aback: reining in the tempo with big ritardandos in the last movement of BWV 1034; snappy rather than leaning ornaments in BWV 1031. But the Largo second movement of the A major Sonata, BWV 1032, is breathtakingly beautiful: Kaiser’s tone is coloured by fingered vibrato (flattement) and the complex sound-quality of the obbligato harpsichord right-hand perfectly balances the flute as Bach conjures up a trio texture from the two players.

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In the conventional solo texture of flute, bass and continuo, the cellist Juris Teichmanis joins in impassioned dialogue in the opening Adagio of the E minor Sonata while the fast movements, at a thrilling pace, seem effortless.

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With three of the six flute sonatas reserved, presumably, for ‘Vol. 2’, this disc introduces two trio sonatas. One, from the Musical Offering, has Bach’s violin part taken into the right hand of a fortepiano, reflecting perhaps the sound-world of the composer’s mind after meeting Frederick the Great, and his pianos, at Potsdam. Conjectural – even perverse – this may be, but the playing, and recording quality, of this disc create my new benchmark. George Pratt