Mario Folena

Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonatas for Flute and Harpsichord

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This SACD release from the Arts label (auditioned with a good pair of conventional stereo headphones) is of the sort that seethes with data about microphone placement and the like -- a classic example of missing the forest for the trees, for the church in Padua where the recording took place transforms what should be ingratiating and intimate into something chilly and remote. That aside, the pair of Italian players heard here does justice to these works, mostly among the sparse group of chamber instrumental works from Bach's later years. Mario Folena, a student of both Jean-Pierre Rampal and John Eliot Gardiner (with teachers like those, how could he go wrong?), is a skilled Baroque flutist who shows beautiful tonal control in the Sonata in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013 and in general makes something beautiful and singing of the slow movements that bedevil lesser players of the meaty and obstreperous early transverse flute. Folena also re-created the lost flute sonata original of the Sonata in A major, BWV 1032, from a version in C minor for two harpsichords (BWV 1062), and he wrote the booklet notes (in Italian and English), which are brief but give an idea of the music's origins and its occasional hidden signs. He mistakenly classes the Flute Sonata in E flat major, BWV 1031, as a spurious work -- a verdict that's far from closed among those who investigate this kind of thing for a living. It is a light work with shifting textures that seem un-Bachian, but that impression is underlaid by Romantic narratives that had to make Bach the mighty conservative so that progress could take its inevitable steps forward. In fact various progressive Bach works exist and are ensnared in musicological controversies of one kind or another; he was alert to the light new galant style of the 1730s, even if he did not adopt it in a thoroughgoing way. Folena and harpsichordist Roberto Loreggian give this work in particular a bright, kinetic reading. Sound aside, the album offers an hour of superb Bach flute music that anyone will enjoy, with instruments close to those Bach would have known.

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