Joshua Smith; Jory Vinikour; Ann Marie Morgan; Allison Guest Edberg
Delos DE 3408
This is Joshua Smith’s second disc of Bach’s flute music, the first of which covered the sonatas with obbligato harpsichord (Delos 3402). This newer offering features the E major, E minor and C major sonatas for flute and basso continuo. Smith does a remarkable job with these, which so often suffer from heavy-handedness and lack of imagination when performed on the modern flute. His playing is delightfully devoid of extreme vibrato and heavy-handed articulation, and displays a consistently thoughtful understanding of the music’s underlying harmonic structure. In some of the faster movements the passagework could perhaps use a little more variety in its shaping, and some of the allegros were too close to presto for my taste. But Smith’s attentive phrasing and expressive delicacy, particularly in the slower movements, more than make up for these small caveats. He is also brilliantly accompanied by colleagues Jory Vinikour, harpsichord, and Ann Marie Morgan, baroque cello, and the trio’s teamwork is pretty close to flawless.
An extra treat included on this recording is the C minor trio sonata from the Musical Offering (BWV 1079), in which Smith, Vinikour and Morgan are joined by baroque violinist Allison Guest Edberg. Theirs is a first-rate recording of this magnificent piece, in which the bigger arcs of structure and harmony happily coincide with deftly outlined musical nuance.
It’s not every day that a modern flutist gives Bach a performance that makes a traverso player happy, but Joshua Smith does so with consummate skill and aplomb.