The title of this release is thoroughly misleading. The album contains nothing like the ''Complete Flute Sonatas'' of C. P. E. Bach but only those for flute with obbligato harpsichord, of which there are but five. Eleven others for flute and continuo are omitted, along with Bach's single work for unaccompanied flute. Instead, the remaining five sonatas in the programme consist of two (BWV1020 and 1031) whose authorship has long been a matter of dispute; a trio for flute, violin and bass (H578) in which the violin part has been taken over by the right hand of the keyboard; another (H543) in which a similar adjustment has been made to Bach's two differently scored originals; and a duet for violin and harpsichord (H504) in which the violinRead more part is taken by the flute. So, you can see that the title of the album is somewhat economical with the truth, though the accompanying essay by Barthold Kuijken clarifies the position.
That much having been said, I found the playing lively in spirit and responsive to the composer's own distinctive brand of sensibility, which sits comfortably under the Empfindsamerstil umbrella. Kuijken's tone is warmly coloured, softly spoken and pleasingly rounded and he clearly has much affection for Emanuel Bach's expressive idiom. The balance between flute and harpsichord is effective, too, with Bob van Asperen proving himself an ideal partner both on account of his playing, which is particular in and attentive to detail, and his sympathy with the music. Many of the pieces here are all too seldom performed, the beautiful G major Sonata (H509) is one of them, and readers are likely to be captivated by music and playing alike. It does seem to me unlikely that C. P. E. Bach was responsible for the fine E flat Sonata (BWV1031), usually included in the J. S. Bach canon, if now generally regarded as an interloper. Kuijken, too, expresses serious doubts but has nevertheless chosen to include it because it is a rewarding piece. The authorship of the Sonata in G minor (BWV1020) is equally shrouded in mystery. Kuijken considers it possibly a C. P. E. Bach piece, though again I remain unconvinced since it draws upon an expressive vocabulary so different from much else here. Certainly, the music of both sonatas seems to speak of a Berlin rather than a Leipzig provenance.
In short this is a first-rate recital, stylishly played with outstanding virtuosity and sympathetically recorded. Recommended to flautists and to readers with a love of the expressive subtleties of the time.
-- Nicholas Anderson, Gramophone [5/1994] Read less