A Tribute to Bach
Rachel Brown, flute
[c] 2015 Uppernote Recordings
A wonderful new CD joins Baroque flutist Rachel Brown with a marvelous group of musicians: Laurence Cummings, harpsichord; Katherine Sharman, cello; the London Handel Players; Elizabeth Cragg, soprano; Charles Daniels, tenor; and Peter Harvey, baritone. A Tribute to Bach features flute sonatas, instrumental works, and arias by J. S. Bach. The Sonata in B Minor BWV 1030, Solo (Partita) in A Minor BWV 1013, Sonata in A Major BWV 1032, Sonata in E Minor BWV 1034, and Sonata in E Minor BWV 1035 are played beautifully, with an expressive tone that shows great shading and sensitivity. The lyric lines show a beauty and majesty of contour and a detailed, musical approach to the smaller motivic units within the phrases. The ornamentation flows easily from the original melodic material.
The CD includes Concerto in A Minor BWV 1056, arranged by Brown. This concerto was written for oboe in the key of F minor. Transposition up a major third produces several high Fs on the one-keyed flute--the Scherer instrument used for this recording--which Brown plays stunningly.
Other works are Adagio from the Sinfonia to the Easter Overture BWV 249, Largo from Concerto RV 299/BWV 973, and arias from Cantatas BWV 115, BWV 8, 82a, BWV 180, and BWV 114. The Largo movement originated from a middle movement of a concerto by Vivaldi (RV 299). Bach wrote a beautiful transcription for solo keyboard, adding an inner voice. The arrangement on the CD takes that inner voice and moves it to the flute line, where the glorious lyric line is even more vivid. Exquisite ornamentation of the melodic line speaks with great heart.
Brown addresses the issue of ornamentation of Bach's works in the liner notes. "The question of whether musicians should ornament Bach's music themselves is a sensitive one; of course his music is never plain or dull, so as to need decoration, yet the many examples of Bach's skill in embellishing works of his own and of other composers is in itself an inspiration to follow in his footsteps." Brown's ornamentation throughout the disc is never "showy" but instead enhances the beauty of the lines.
All of the performances on this CD are extremely sensitive with wonderful intonation, dynamic contrasts, and a transparent beauty of line throughout. I highly recommend this CD; it will be a source of study and inspiration for all musicians involved in performing the glorious works of J. S. Bach.