Hyperion has been sending some gems lately, the ‘Handel: Finest Arias For Base Voice’ (Christopher Purves/ Arcangelo/ Jonathan Cohen) (Hyperion: CDA67842), chief among them. So, it came as a surprise that this new 2013 release cannot be counted as a success.
The stars seemed aligned. Principal flutist of the vastly improved Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, Andrea Oliva and the darling of the Bach set, Angela Hewitt on piano. Obviously, both are fine and cultured musicians.
On this set of six Bach Flute Sonatas with continuo or obbligato harpsichord, we have a mismatch of styles. Most flutists use harpsichord as accompaniment, whether playing a wooden baroque flute or as here on a modern instrument. Oliva has the Bach specialist, Canadian Angela Hewitt on piano.
Oliva takes the baroque approach on a modern instrument, what American star flutist Paula Robison calls ‘fusion style’. To my ears, Oliva’s attempt at this approach does not work. It diminishes the sound, sparkle and power of the modern flute and does not emphasize the unique timbres of the baroque wooden flute. What I hear is a bland sound and interpretation.
Oliva does ornament very musically — they sound completely improvisatory. And, Hewitt is a musical accompanist. Both are recorded beautifully in Berlin’s Jesus Christus Kirche. A shame we don’t hear more of Oliva’s musical personality. Bach can be dynamic and exciting while adhering to appropriate instrumental practice.
You can read more about Bach’s Flute Sonatas in my Audiophilia survey. It does not include two of the very best sets I’ve heard recently. The fabulous Jed Wentz on wooden baroque flute and the eqaully wonderful Robert Stallman on modern flute. Both of these releases serve Bach better.
Playing time: 77:58