J. S. Bach: Sonatas for Flute and Harpsichord

Pauliina Fred, Aapo Häkkinen
Naxos 8.573376
BWV 1030-35

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is a very good recording, and stands up well to all the others I know in quality of tone, the clarity of the recording and the sense of partnership between the two players, both well-known in the Finnish period instrument world.

Fred plays most of the sonatas on a full-toned and crystal-clear Wenner copy of a Palanca flute, but switches for BWV 1035 to a lighter-voiced copy of a Rottenburg by Claire Soubeyran. In this sonata she is accompanied – the right word here for the sonatas where the keyboard is a continuo instrument rather than a sparring partner – by a clavichord, whose arpeggios in the final Allegro assai seem especially plausible. For BWV 1033, which may have had its origins in a sonata for unaccompanied flute dating from Bach’s time in Köthen, Häkkinen plays a lute-harpsichord by Knif & Ollikka (2014). This certainly suits the rhapsodic nature of this sonata well, while in BWV 1032 he plays an Italian-style instrument, where the single 8’ used in the slow movement is a singing alternative to the lute stops used in the slow movements of 1030, 1031 and 1034. These multiple possibilities of registration illustrate the quality of preparation that has gone into the choices the players make about tone, phrasing and tempi, especially the easing of the tempo where it seems right. In the other sonatas, registration – including the use of the lute stop – seems well-judged, and softens the edge of the somewhat hard-toned flute (so good for balancing with other instruments in a larger band, I imagine) a bit.

The quality of attention one to the other in these sonatas is very high, and makes for chamber music making of the highest order. I can’t believe that there could be a better recording of these characterful and diverse works. I entirely recommend this CD.

David Stancliffe

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