Unmissable ... Carla Rees

For me, the most striking thing about this CD in the initial seconds is the wonderful sound of two flutes and continuo caught in what seems like the most perfect acoustic one could find for this combination. Whether the acoustic is from the hall or a box of sound engineer’s tricks - I suspect perhaps a bit of both - the sound is a force to be reckoned with. Combined with playing of the highest order, this is a high quality product which deserves the highest of praise.

The two flutes are evenly matched in both tone quality and expression, and the continuo provides strong support. The balance between parts is perfect, and flexible enough to allow the solo lines to come through the texture.

The five sonatas on this disc are heard in many guises, with BWV 1027-29 perhaps best known as sonatas for viola da gamba. The combination of two flutes and continuo works well and the versions of the works used are carefully considered and edited by the performers, further demonstrating their sensitivity and understanding of the music. The sonatas nearly always have four movements, in slow-fast-slow-fast form; the exception is the G minor sonata BWV 1029, which is in three movement form.

The playing is expressive, with a stunning sense of direction through the phrases. The fast movements are played with gusto, a strong sense of pulse, and clarity of technique and articulation. The sense of ensemble between these four players is faultless, with every turn of phrase beautifully matched to create a magnificent sense of unity. The slow movements provide an opportunity to drown in the richness of the sound, with beautiful shaping and sensitive dynamic contrasts.

In these days of enlightened research into early music, I fully accept that period performance practice has a very rightful place. These sonatas are performed making full use of an intelligent understanding of Bach’s style, but played on modern instruments … thankfully, though, not replacing the harpsichord with piano. It is extremely enjoyable to hear these works making full use of the capabilities of modern flutes, particularly in terms of sound and dynamic range. While the effect of this is different from the sound of baroque flutes, it is inspiring to think that these sonatas have a modern relevance which will undoubtedly help to ensure another 250+ years of performance.Unmissable.

Carla Rees