JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - Flute Sonatas and Arias

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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - Flute Sonatas & Arias - Rachel Brown (Flute) - London Handel Players - 5060124571966 - Released: January 2016 - Uppernote Recordings UPCD003

Adagio from the opening Sinfonia to Easter Oratorio, BWV 249
Sonata in B minor for obbligato harpsichord and flute, BWV 1030
Bete aber auch dabei from Cantata Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115
Solo (Partita) in A minor, BWV 1013
Sonata in A major for obbligato harpsichord and flute, BWV 1032
Doch weichet, ihr tollen vergeblichen Sorgen! from Cantata Liebster Gott, wenn wird ich sterben?, BWV 8
Ich habe genug from Cantata Ich habe genug, BWV 82a
Sonata in E minor for flute and basso continuo, BWV 1034
Ermuntre dich, dein Heiland klopft from Cantata Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180
Flute Concerto in A minor, BWV 1056 (arr. Brown)
Wo wird in diesem Jammerthale from Cantata Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost, BWV 114
Sonata in E major for flute and basso continuo, BWV 1035
Largo from Bach's transcription of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto RV 299, BWV 973

I love the music of Johann Sebastian Bach for its stirring power (Toccata in F Major), for its profound spirituallity (St. John Passion), and for its musical genius (Art of the Fugue). And then there's the music of Bach to be enjoyed simply for its listening pleasure, and this new recording featuring in the lead role flutist Rachel Brown, certainly is a pleasant listening experience. If you've been listening to and collecting classical music for as long as I have, then you will know that Rachel Brown is not new to the scene. She's established herself as one of the best Baroque instrumentalists out there, with many excellent recordings with noted ensembles like the Academy of Ancient Music, the English Concert, London Classical Players, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Hanover Band, Collegium Musicum 90, etc .... On this, her latest recording, she leads Laurence Cummings (harpsichord), Katherine Sharman (cello and cello piccolo), Adrian Butterfield and Oliver Webber (violins), Peter Collyer (viola), Peter Buckoke (double bass), Elizabeth Cragg (soprano), Charles Daniels (tenor), Peter Harvey (baritone), on an insightful traversal of instrumental and vocal works by Bach, all performed on copies of original period instruments.

What I immediately noticed about this recording during my initial listening session, was the natural ease behind the playing. This is not a "listen to how good I am" performance, but rather a "listen to how beautiful this music is" performance. Everyone involved performs at the service of the music, and no one attempts to steal the show by attracting undue attention to themselves. The blend is perfect although at times I felt that the ensemble players were a touch too quiet, too recessed, to allow the full interaction and counterpoint between the instruments to fully come through. But that's a very minor quibble considering the quality of both the singing and playing, the overall spirit behind the music, and the quality of the recording itself on the new Uppernote Recordings label, recently launched by Rachel Brown as a recording label and publishing house.

So, pick a quiet afternoon, pick a comfortable chair, and put this on. An afternoon well spent on all accounts.

Jean-Yves Duperron - February 2016