This is the second installment of Cleveland Orchestra star flutist Joshua Smith’s survey of the sonatas for flute by J. S. Bach. The first volume was infused with grace, charm, and a wonderful musicality. The same description applies here.
It goes without saying that a player in an orchestral seat as hot as Smith’s has technique to burn, but it is the musical line delivered with such flair that continues to impress from Smith. The Bach Sonatas are tremendously taxing for the player — in breath control, stamina, and absolute accuracy of pitch. Again, no fears for this player. As such, the listener can hear the music played with apparent ease. The aforementioned grace and charm imbues the entire disc.
Some of these sonatas, including the very sunny C Major BWV 1033 are attributed to contemporaries of Bach, but it would be churlish not to enjoy them as much as Papa Bach’s mini masterpieces such as the B minor and E major Sonatas. In any case, the consistency in performance makes purchase of this second CD an obvious choice.
The casual listener could be forgiven in thinking that these are period instrument performances on a baroque wooden flute (in fact, it’s a ‘modern’, Boehm System Rudall Carte wooden flute with Louis Lot head joint). Smith eschews the heavy, Romantic vision of ornamentation and the sonatas come off the better for it (if you want the full, caffeinated version on a modern silver flute, try the great Aurele Nicolet, available on iTunes). Smith plays the grace notes quickly, off the breath, and they make the phrases sound delightful. Add to the mix knockout accompanying by Jory Vinikour on harpsichord and Ann Marie Morgan on baroque cello, and the recipe for exquisite music making is complete. As a bonus to the sonatas, we get the Musical Offering with with Allison Guest Edberg, baroque violin. So, an equally enthusiastic recommendation for the sequel.