The stated "following the path of the trio sonata" concept of this album is a good one, for the journey leading from the Baroque trio sonata to the Classical string quartet is an intriguing one, with detours leading to most of Europe's musical capitals. Unfortunately, this disc falls wide of the mark in terms of delivering what it promises, although much of it is listenable. The chief problem is that there are no true trio sonatas on the program. The trio sonatas have two melody instruments of roughly equal weight, plus a continuo that usually includes more than one instrument: a chord-playing instrument and a low melody instrument reinforcing the bass line, with a viola da gamba and harpsichord being a common example. The term "trio sonata" is thus one of those misnomers music historians have created to keep the riffraff out. But the Bach works set up as exemplars of the form are problematical. The opening Sonata in B minor for flute and harpsichord, BWV 1030, is an accomapanied sonata for solo instrument, not a trio sonata, and it is atypical of the Baroque in that Bach wrote it for a specified harpsichord part with no other instrument, not with a harmonic "continuo" to be realized by the performer or performers. The following Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527, is the only work on the program originally designated as a trio sonata; it is one of Bach's trio sonatas for organ (again an odd use of the term), transcribed for flute, cello, and harpsichord continuo. The pieces by Bach's sons Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christoph Friedrich are sonatas for flute and harpsichord, while the final two pieces, by Johann Christian Bach and the eight-year-old Mozart, are examples of yet another genre, the keyboard sonata accompanied ad libitum by another instrument, in this case a flute. The origins of this genre bear investigation by performers, but it has little to do with the trio sonata; the emphasis on these pieces is completely on the keyboard. A recording showing how the trio sonata texture diversified into the Italian sinfonia, the divertimento, and the early string trio would be well worthwhile, and it would involve an important composer, Haydn, who does not make an appearance here. What the listener is left with in this case is some crisp and lively Bach playing, some galant works that are attractive and not heard too often, and some early Classical pieces in which flutist Claire Guimond seems more at ease than harpsichordist Gary Cooper and Baroque cellist Jaap ter Linden. There's nothing objectionable in the sounds on the disc, but libraries should take careful note of its contents.
De Bach à Mozart Review
by James Manheim