Six Flute Sonatas, BWV 1030-1035
Michala Petri (recorder), Hille Perl (viola da gamba), Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)
Our Recordings 6.220673 74:19 mins
Yes, Bach’s flute sonatas were written for the then fashionable transverse flute, not the recorder. But Bach frequently arranged his own music for a different instrument, sometimes changing the key for a better fit. And in following suit Michala Petri makes the music sound entirely at home on her family of instruments, with her bright tone, precise tuning and wonderfully crisp and even tonguing. Her playing is marred only by a lack of dynamic variation, which for example flattens out the little double echoes in the finale of the E minor Sonata (transposed to G minor). There are, however, relaxations of tempo which help to shape the longer movements into paragraphs – though the huge pull-ups at final cadences seem a bit overdone.
More problematic is the balance between the parts – presumably as created by the players, but not rectified by the production team. In the three sonatas with obbligato (fully written out) keyboard parts, Hille Perl’s viola da gamba, sustaining a smooth legato bass line, obscures harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani’s right hand, which ought to be equal to the recorder in the mix. This improves when the bass notes are staccato or plucked, but it’s only when the gamba rests altogether for the Presto three-part fugue in the B minor Sonata that an ideal balance emerges. There’s not the same problem in the continuo-accompanied sonatas, in which the bass line is central: but even in those I’d like to have heard more of what the always interesting Esfahani is contributing.