J.S. Bach, who could create tantalizingly sophisticated music using the most economical means, famously wrote six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, and six Suites for solo cello. Less well known is the single work Bach left behind for the solo flute.
The four-movement suite which has come to be known as the Flute Partita in A minor, BWV 1013 originally was inscribed with the simple title, Solo pour la Flute traversiere. (The transverse flute was the wooden flute of the day). The suite was probably written between 1717 and 1723 when Bach served as Kapellmeister in Cöthen. We don’t know the occasion for which it was written, or even if it was originally performed on another instrument, such as the keyboard, and later adapted for the flute. Marten Root, an expert on performance practice, notes that in this spectacularly virtuosic piece, there is no place for the player to breathe.
The suite opens with an Allemande made up of a stream of sixteenth notes. Next comes a playful Courante and a stately and intimate Sarabande. A dazzling Bourrée angloise closes out the work.
This performance, featuring Marten Root, was recorded by the Netherlands Bach Society in November, 2015:
Featured Image: “Man Playing Flute with a Woman,” Jacob van Loo