Bach: Flute Sonatas, Vol. 1: Flute Sonatas, BWV 1030 & 1033-5; Partita in A minor, BWV 1013

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WORKS: Flute Sonatas, Vol. 1: Flute Sonatas, BWV 1030 & 1033-5; Partita in A minor, BWV 1013
PERFORMER: Ashley Solomon (flute), Terry Charlston (harpsichord)
Bach’s flute sonatas are part of my very earliest musical memories and I have a special affection for them. Much ink has been spilled over issues concerning the authenticity of at least three of them. But they are all worth knowing and, happily, Ashley Solomon seems to agree. His Vol. 1 contains two of Bach’s most technically advanced and substantial works for the instrument, the Partita in A minor for unaccompanied flute, and the great B minor Sonata which reached its definitive form in the mid-1730s. In this profoundly satisfying piece Bach writes for flute and obbligato harpsichord with an innovative and daring freedom which easily matches that which he had already demonstrated in his sonatas for violin and harpsichord (BWV 1014-19). The rapport of Solomon and his partner Terry Charlston makes for rewarding listening, while Solomon on his own inflects the music of the unaccompanied Partita with communicative, unhurried charm. Now to a problem. These artists argue for performing the three sonatas on the disc for flute and continuo without a stringed bass instrument. But though such sonatas were already beginning their decline when Bach was writing his, the convention of using a cello/viola da gamba with a keyboard instrument, as far as we know, remained intact. I have no wish to seem either pedantic or unduly purist but, especially in slow movements, the absence of such an instrument is hard to overlook. Indeed, some of Bach’s contemporaries, notably Tartini, preferred on occasion to dispense with the keyboard rather than the stringed bass. This not inconsiderable issue apart, I enjoyed the recital, though a fuller complement of instruments can be found on Karl Kaiser’s excellent MDGrecordings. Nicholas Anderson