Touring the Baroque on the Wings of a Flute

05.01.09
Emmanuel Pahud
The New York Times

During a recital at Zankel Hall on Wednesday evening, the brilliant Emmanuel Pahud performed Bach's flute sonatas with remarkable tone and technical finesse, ably accompanied by two stellar colleagues: the harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock and the cellist Jonathan Manson.

The program was framed by Bach's Flute Sonatas in E minor (BWV 1034) and in E (BWV 1035), which both use the older four-movement format with harpsichord and cello continuo.

Mr. Pahud, a principal flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic, played with a liquid tone and expressive phrasing, rendering the elaborate passages with flair. His soaring melodies shimmered over the continuo lines of the cello and harpsichord.

Bach's Flute Sonatas in B minor (BWV 1030) and in E flat (BWV 1031) highlight the emergence of the duo sonata, in which the cello continuo of the Baroque trio was eliminated and replaced with a more equal partnership between flute and harpsichord. Because of its genial, lighthearted character and relative lack of contrapuntal vigor, musicologists have questioned whether the E flat Sonata was actually written by Bach.

Bach was initially passed over for a prominent position in Leipzig in favor of Telemann, who was inspired by Bach's flute music when composing his own solo works for the instrument, like the Fantasia in D. Mr. Pahud played that piece, one of a set of 12 that Telemann composed, with lovely phrasing in the spacious Alla Francese and vigorous energy in the sparkling Presto.

Mr. Pinnock, a pioneer in the modern early-music movement, offered an imaginative and expressive performance of Purcell's Harpsichord Suite No. 4 in A minor, which Purcell wrote as a keyboard exercise for his pupils. It was published shortly after his death in a series of lesson books, accompanied by instructions regarding the trills and other embellishments.

Bach's cello suites, probably intended as technical studies, languished in obscurity until Pablo Casals played them early in the 20th century. Using a Baroque cello, Mr. Manson offered a remarkable performance of the Suite No. 1 in G. He played with a pure, warm, vibratoless tone and lilting phrasing, imbuing the work with an elegant freshness and soulful introspection.