Notes and Editorial Reviews
Flute Sonatas: No. 1 in A; No. 2 in G; No. 3 in C; No. 4 in e
Ildekó Kertész (fl); Geoffrey Thomas (hpd)
NCA 60214 (71:19)
Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713–80) is perhaps the best known of the pupils of J. S. Bach, other than the master’s own sons; a famous anecdotal pun runs, “Das ist der einzige Krebs in meinem Bache” (this is the only crab in my brook). Faithful to his mentor’s tutelage, Krebs’s own compositional style was famously conservative by the standards of his time, making much use
of fugues and counterpoint even as musical fashions moved on to the
style, with its emphasis on a homophonic melodic line supported by chordal accompaniment and metrical phrasing. Perhaps for this reason, Krebs never found employment in one of Europe’s major musical capitals despite his generally acknowledged virtuosity at the organ and other musical skills; instead, he served successively in Zwickau, Zeitz, and Altenberg, suffering continuous financial woes due to modest salaries and the need to support eight children.
The four sonatas recorded here, drawn from a set of six composed in1763, are among the few works Krebs composed for an instrument other than the organ or solo harpsichord. They are relatively forward-looking by Krebs’s standards, containing a mixture of older and newer stylistic elements. The overall structure is that of the Baroque suite, with its slow introductory and main fast movements followed by a series of dance-based movements (though Krebs, somewhat unusually, employs a polonaise instead of a gavotte, gigue, sarabande, or bourrée). In contrast to his keyboard compositions, however, the thematic material here is more inclined to the
style, though there is regular use of imitative counterpoint and the contour of the melodies is distinctly Bachian in flavor. The craftsmanship is of a high order, leaving one to wonder why so few flutists have taken up this repertoire.
This disc, originally issued in 1995, is one of only two recordings of these works; the other is a Quill Classics CD from 2004 with flutist Andrew Bolotowsky and harpsichordist Rebecca Pechefsky (interviewed elsewhere in this issue), which replaces the Second Sonata in C Major with the Fifth Sonata in A Minor. Both discs contain fine performances, and the Baroque flute aficionado will probably want to acquire both. For those who wish to have only one CD of this repertoire in their collections, however, I would give the nod to Bolotowsky and Pechefsky (who have also recorded a CD of the authentic Bach flute sonatas, with flute playing that I find to be nothing short of revelatory). This is in part a subjective preference for the more soft-grained and rounded sound of Bolotowsky over the brighter and more penetrating one of Ildekó Kertész (with a parallel contrast between harpsichordists Pechefsky and Geoffrey Thomas as well). However, I also find that the Quill Classics duo has a superior feel for the melodic flow and rhythmic pulse of these works, particularly in the slow movements, where the NCA duo is comparatively stiff, though there is the occasional fast movement (e.g., the second movement of the Fourth Sonata) where Kertész and Thomas take the palm. The Quill duo takes repeats in second movements of the first and third sonatas that the NCA duo does not, and has a more natural recorded acoustic with less resonance. Finally, the Quill CD has superior booklet notes and is also less expensive; however, at present it is only available through Amazon among major online retailers, whereas the NCA disc is more widely distributed. Even though I prefer the Quill Classics issue, this CD is nonetheless a fine one, and should find favor with all lovers of this repertoire.
FANFARE: James A. Altena
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