Bach: Sonatas BWV 1030-5

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Sonatas BWV 1030-5
PERFORMER: Michala Petri (recorder), Keith Jarrett (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61274-2 DDD
As on the set of Handel sonatas she recorded with Keith Jarrett in 1991, Michala Petri plays a modern recorder on this disc. I find its tone piercing by comparison with the warmer sound of the Baroque flute. The timbre of Jarrett’s harpsichord, adjusted accordingly, also becomes brittle and incessantly trebly.

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Bach wrote three of these sonatas with harpsichord obbligato, three with basso continuo. The sleeve notes offer no explanation as to why the basso continuo here is played by the harpsichord alone (hardly common practice), nor do they say anything about Bach or his music. All we get is a somewhat self-regarding interview with the performers, in which both Petri and Jarrett make clear that their priority in playing these sonatas was to bring out Bach’s fluency and movement of line.

This they certainly achieve, but for me the cost is a lack of expressiveness, particularly in the slow movements, such as the lovely Largo e dolce from BWV 1030. In contrast, the flautists on the versions I’d recommend, Simon Preston (on CRD) or Konrad Hünteler (on Philips, not currently available), take time to lean gently on notes, to subtly shape phrases, and so reveal a quality of feeling in the music that is notably absent from this disc.

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Jarrett and Petri skim over the surface of the music, displaying no little flair and often brilliant technique, but skim over it is all they do. Their concentration on the line has resulted in an interpretation that, sadly, is correspondingly two-dimensional. Graham Lock