I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Bach on the Flute

#alttext# Marc Hantaï performs works by Bach on the flute with brothers Pierre Hantaï and Jérôme Hantaï, with Ageet Zweistra. I was fortunate to hear the Trio Hantaï here in Richmond several years ago. This recording is just under an hour, so it's not the complete flute works by J. S. Bach, but features BWVs 1013, 1030, 1032, and the trio sonata for gamba and flute. The recording has a nice clear distinction between the instruments, in terms of the stereo field. Each of the instruments is well-captured, an in intimate context. With the full ensemble playing, the tempos are never too quick, but they sometimes take on a precision that comes off as square, which is something I've heard with harpsichordist Hantaï at the helm of the Concert Français. These folks won't pause for anything... which is to say, it lacks that human (if not organic) approach of taking pause to breathe. This is a stylistic decision they most definitely are making. It's not to say they lack any emotion, or never alter the tempo, but for the most part, they stay metronome precise for the long haul. BWV 1030 is for flute and keyboard, and here brother Marc plays beautifully on the baroque transversière. Precise articulation, and a really nice clear sound for the barque flute. What struck me as odd is the harpsichord voicing. Here a doubling at the octave is being used, which for whatever reason, I associated with early harpsichord recordings that haven't stood the test of time as sounding authentic. I must confess I'm not sure of the authenticity here, and it's more of a personal preference than any statement as to the historical significance of using this double voicing (we know it was employed in the historical instruments, but to what degree was it used in duo playing, or this particular work by Bach?). One of my favorite works by Bach on the flute is his solo partita. It's extremely difficult to play because you're playing solo, all by yourself, with all of those broken chords. Four movements, and here, Marc Hantaï plays them again with a close mike and an impressive, round, practically warm sound. Alone, he's a little more loose with expression, but not much: the precision to the timing is still apparent. The courante, a faster dance, is chosen with a good tempo, although his later bourée anglais is almost too fast. Between repeats he doesn't take enough time to breathe. Marc's solo rendition of the Sarabande from the solo partita is sublime; here he's almost seducing the listener with the instrument's velvety tone. It's a perfect piece for showing off the quality of the instrument, if not the even-breath control of the performer. In all, this is an interesting disc. On the one hand, the audio engineers have faithfully captured the great sound in brothers Jerome and Marc's baroque instruments. On the other hand, this is an incomplete collection, and despite the players all having a technical virtuosity, their playing at times feels awkward due to their almost slavish adherence to the tempo. My ultimate preference is for a more humanist approach to phrasing; this is a matter, however of personal preference. I'd love to know why, for instance, they don't take more pause. Especially with wind music, it seems a natural thing to do.

Buxtehude Opus 2

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