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Bach Flute Sonatas

BWV 1013 (for flute solo), 1020, 1030, 1031-1032

Mario Folena (flute) Roberto Loreggian (harpsichord)

ARTS SACD 47612-8

After the recent incandescent Brandenburgs from I barrocchisti and Diego Fasolison this label, this disc is a disappointment, although it does contain much fine playing and grows on the listener with repeated playing. Folena's tone is winningly round and warm; both performers intuitively understand the style, though not all will agree with their moments of agogic accent, which can seem wilful and contrived.

I have the suspicion that the production values may be questionable. In an attempt to gain the maximum advantage from the SACD format, there is a sense that over-adjustment of balance, and perhaps too much other intervention in post-production, has robbed the recording of naturalness. The harpsichord in particular sometimes has a giant aural perspective.

In the interpretations, there is at times a sense of conflict and disjuncture rather than co-operation, which is a shame for artists with excellent reputations in this repertoire. At some points too, notably at the first movements of BWV1031 and 1032, the harpsichord speeds up and gallops off at intervals, for no apparent reason. Yet, to judge from the immaculate and poised finale of 1032 that ends the disc, or from the outer movements of 1020, Folena and Loreggian have no problem at all combining technical prowess, a sense of true ensemble and interpretative imagination.

The performances are not, however, even. At times, again in the first movement of 1031, or in the later part of the solo flute sonata, when the phrasing seems to try too hard to be interesting. In the slow movements (again particularly the 1031 siciliano , sadly played without repeat), where the harpsichord sounds choppy, disjointed. The sonata for flute alone is carefully phrased and musically played, but again, it remains inappropriately larger than life.

The profound B minor sonata is easily the most satisfying interpretation, both in the stately cadence of the opening movement and in the growing intensity of the finale.

I hesitate to be clichéd and little-Englandish in recommending the Hyperion competitor in this repertoire (CDA67264/5 Beznosiuk / Nicholson, the latter the soloist on the Handel organ concertos reviewed this month), but their two CD set is virtually flawless, played with sympathy and fidelity, and far preferable. One caveat: whereas Folena is easy-going about the vexed question of some of the sonatas' authenticity (discussed in the notes he has written himself), Beznosiuk actually rejects BWV1031, even across two discs, thereby depriving the listener of the most tuneful, if the most dubiously authentic, of the set.

Ying Chang