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WF Bach: 6 Duets for 2 flutes (F 54 - 59), arranged for 2 bassoons


rec: April/October, 1999, Berlin, Kirche Adlershof
Talis Records - TR 1001 (66'16")

Duet I in g minor (orig. in e minor) (F 54); Duet II in B flat (orig. in G) (F 59), Duet III in F (orig. in E flat) (F 55); Duet IV B flat (orig. in F) (F 57), Duet V in F (orig. in E flat) (F 56), Duet VI in g minor (orig in f minor) (F 58)

Adrian Rovatkay, Christian Walter (bassoon)

These six duets for two flutes have never been published during Wilhelm Friedemann's lifetime. That was his own fault. During his time in Berlin he had a very strong relationship with both Johann Philipp Kirnberger and his superior, Anna Amalia of Prussia, the sister of Frederick the Great, who admired Wilhelm Friedemann's organ playing and was paying for his living. But that relationship broke down after Wilhelm Friedemann seemingly tried to outmanoeuvre Kirnberger and take over his position.
During the middle of the 18th century in Berlin the view was held that the mastery of polyphony was the 'art of leaving out'. The secrets of harmony and counterpoint were revealed to their full extent in strictly two-part pieces, which were nevertheless logical and pleasant to the ear. In 1759 Johann Joachim Quantz published a set of six duets for two flutes. He claimed they were so logical that it was simply impossible to add a third part. Kirnberger took the challenge: during a service, where Quantz was present, he played one of these duets on the manual of the organ and improvised a third part on the pedal. It led to a fervent musical debate.
These six duets by Wilhelm Friedemann are an attempt to meet the ideal described before. That doesn't mean these works are dour illustrations of a musicological theory. On the contrary, they are pleasant to the ear and full of surprises and rhetorical gestures. This is hightly entertaining music, which is reflected by the fact that they have been recorded several times before. But this is the first recording on bassoons. They have been transposed into other keys to make them playable on bassoons. In his short notes on the performance Christian Walter refers to other composers of duets, like Telemann and Boismortier, who were flexible as far as the instrumental scoring was concerned, and to Quantz, who wrote in the preface to his duets that it was hardly necessary to explicitly stating that performances on other instruments than flutes were possible.
The result is very well worth hearing. Both players, using baroque and classical bassoons, are doing an excellent job. Phrasing and articulation are very natural and logical, the ensemble playing is immaculate. Maybe one shouldn't listen to this CD in one session: more than one hour of bassoon playing isn't to everyone's taste.

Johan van Veen ( 2002)


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