Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Program note written by Jacob Farmer
I. Adagio ma non tanto
IV. Allegro assai
Approximate Performance Time:
Advanced – appropriate for upper college undergraduates and master students
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.
Bach’s Sonata in E Major for Flute and Continuo BWV 1035, was written for the newly popular instrument, the traverso or one key flute, replacing the recorder. This work was written for Frederick the Great, a flutist and king, and the manuscript was later found in his library. This is the last Sonata Bach wrote for flute and continuo. The piece has four movements alternating between slow and fast tempi with the first movement in the form of a prelude and the last three all in binary form. The first, second, and fourth movement are in the key of E Major while the third movement is in c# minor. This Sonata is the last of three that Bach wrote for flute and basso continuo. Unlike most classical music of today, the flute melody is fully written out, but there is only a single bass line for the keyboard player. It then becomes the keyboardist’s responsibility to create an accompaniment using the harmony provided, creating a new work for each performance.