CPE Bach: Complete flute sonatas

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COMPOSERS: CPE Bach
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Complete flute sonatas
PERFORMER: Barthold Kuijken (transverse flute) Bob van Asperen (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: S2K 53964 DDD
Amongst period instrumentalists, Barthold Kuijken is a most revered flautist, and this two-disc set of sonatas by CPE Bach adds more weight to his substantial stack of chamber discs of the Baroque and Classical periods.

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His sound is not crystal clear; it’s a much more subtle affair, which uses shifting nuances and varying layers of attack and dynamics to portray CPE Bach’s sudden switches of emotional intensity. Both the plaintive Andante of the C major sonata, H504, and the delicate phrases of the Adagio ma non troppo in the B flat sonata, H578, are followed by frenetic and sprightly Allegrettos.

At the time of writing these sonatas, CPE Bach was an accomplished keyboard player and accompanist to Frederick the Great. The harpsichord was no longer relegated to accompanying chords, but had a dominant part of its own to play. Both instruments here are given ample opportunity to show off individually or mimic each other immaculately. The echoing is particularly effective between the flute and right hand of the harpsichord part, for example, in the bubbling Allegro assai of the Sonata in E major, H506.

There’s an abundant use of ornamentation, produced with polish by Kuijken and harpsichordist Bob van Asperen. It’s impressive how both add so many individual marks, but retain the simplicity of the original works. The skimpering, tinkling harpsichord and flourishing flute runs create an enviable synergy.

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Kate Sherriff