Emi Ferguson / Ruckus

Fly the Coop: Bach Sonatas and Preludes

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The originality of this release by flutist Emi Ferguson does not end with the cartoon-like graphics, seemingly quite un-Bachian. Begin with the billing which does not mention only Ferguson but also a group called Ruckus, which it turns out is a continuo ensemble. It's unusual enough for such an ensemble to get a billing of its own, but here it's fully justified: Ruckus is responsible for more convention-breaking than is Ferguson, who is basically a fine, lively Baroque flutist. She does join in the craziness with tongued flute passages, slides, and the like. The continuo group consists of Baroque bassoon, Baroque cello, viola da gamba, theorbo, Baroque guitar, at times a banjo (listen for it), and harpsichord or organ. Not only the flute sonatas but the keyboard preludes get the continuo treatment, which experiments with both texture and rhythm. The latter approaches jazz and funk at times, but Ferguson and Ruckus ease into the wilder experiments and play some pieces straight. The result is that some developments seem to come out of nowhere, and the deep balances in Bach's music are disturbed. The characterization of the three flute sonatas as "The Master," "The Eccentric," and "The Teacher" are also fuzzy; sample the second of these. The music is anything but dull, and there's some support for the idea that the continuo, even in Bach, is a freer thing than is generally supposed. Recommended for experiment-minded listeners, with fine sound from a small studio in Vermont.

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