William McGibbon: Complete Sonatas

Floral design

Edited by Elizabeth C. Ford
Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 205
xvi+3+186pp
ISBN 978-1-9872-0057-7
A-R Editions, Inc. $180.00

This volume contains two sets of Six Sonatas for Two German Flutes, or Two Violins and a Bass (1729 & 1734), the sole surviving Traverso Primo of third set (1745), as well as Six Sonatas or Solos for a German Flute or Violin and a Bass (1740) and Six Sonatas for Two German Flutes (1748), arranged (apart from the fragment, which is consigned to an appendix) in chronological order.

As one would expect with music designed for the flute, sharp keys predominate; G minor appears twice and C minor only once. The sonatas have either three movements (a slower movement followed by two quicker ones) or four (broadly in the da chiesa form, though with some stylised dance movements thrown in for variety).

Ford’s introduction features a nice biography of the composer then deals with his music in general before discussing each of the original prints in turn. The edition is clean and clear; as usual with this series, the focus is on the music, not the presentation – a single system of a movement is printed after a page turn; a movement that would fit on two pages spreads over three (despite the fact that there is space on the last page) meaning anyone playing continuo has unnecessary turns. It puzzles me why, when these volumes can scarcely be called cheap, more care is not given to the aesthetics and practicality of actually performing the music. Surely a major reason for producing modern editions in the first place (in an age where more and more people are downloading facsimiles from free sites) is to make it accessible?

Brian Clark