Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Program note written by Jacob Farmer
II. Largo e Dolce
Approximate Performance Time:
Advanced – appropriate for upper college undergraduates and master students
James Galway. Flute Sonata No. 1 in B Minor, BWV 1030. Sony, 1995. MP3.
Mehne, Wendy Ann. A research/performance Edition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Acknowledged Flute Sonatas. Order No. 9221923 The University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1992 Ann Arbor ProQuest. 30 Sep. 2016.
Johann Sebastian Bach was virtuosic in his early years but without the fame and notoriety one would expect from his exceptionalism. Born 1685 and raised in Eisenach, a small town in Thuringia, Bach attended the Latin Grammar School, where the boys of the school formed a small choir allowing him to exercise his “uncommonly fine treble voice.” Bach began as an organist for the court of the ruling Grand Dukes of Weimar where he wrote most of his music for organ (like Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor), then later in 1717 relocated to Cothen to serve as Court Kapellmeister to Leopald. Bach’s compositions span choral music (most notably Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147), organ, keyboard, orchestral, chamber music and concertos. In 1723, Leipzig became his home, where he lead the Choir School of St Thomas, and eventually the University Collegium Musicum. It was during his stent in Cothen that Bach was able to focus on compositions for solo instruments, including a series of flute sonatas, both accompanied and unaccompanied.
One of Bach’s more popular flute sonatas is the Sonata in B minor for Flute, Harpsichord, and Continuo BWV 1030. This work is actually a revision from an earlier sonata in g minor with a part for concertante harpsichord with sections borrowed from a previous trio sonata. This newly revised sonata combines elements of a concerto and a trio sonata. The first movement, Andante, sounds similar to an orchestra with a trading off of sections between the solo flute part and the orchestral sounding harpsichord part. The next movement is similar in that the slower movement represents an orchestral setting with the flute soloing over a ripieno-like harpsichord part. The final movement, Presto, starts with a three-part fugue – right hand keyboard, left hand keyboard, and flute. This style of writing is comparable to a trio sonata form.