Bach’s Flute Sonata in E Minor, BWV 1034: Quicksilver Virtuosity

Mystery surrounds the exact origin of J.S. Bach’s Flute Sonata in E minor, BWV 1034. It was probably written around 1723 when Bach was employed as Capellmeister for Prince Leopold in Cöthen. Other evidence suggests that it could have been composed slightly later in Leipzig, perhaps for one of the Collegium Musicum concerts at the coffee house, Café Zimmermann. Regardless, the work’s technical demands suggest that it was intended for a musician of great skill. The fast movements spring to life with a thrilling, quicksilver virtuosity.

Set in four movements, BWV 1034 follows the popular Baroque sonata di chiesa (“church sonata”) form (slow-fast-slow-fast). The flute line forms a sparkling obligato over a basso continuo provided by the harpsichord and a sustaining instrument such as the viola da gamba. This piece was written at a time when the wooden traverso flute was replacing the recorder.

In the first movement, we enter a quietly melancholy and dreamy E minor soundscape. A lamenting conversation unfolds, with the basso continuo line occasionally entering into a melodic duet with the flute. The second movement (Allegro) dances with sparkling, angelic virtuosity. The third movement (Andante) is a sensuously beautiful aria, turning to major. Dazzling fireworks erupt in the final movement with a flurry of rapid lines in the flute and a vibrant, canonic conversation between instruments. Listen carefully for some delightfully ear-twisting harmonic surprises.

In this performance, the German Baroque flutist Konrad Hünteler is joined by harpsichordist Ton Koopman and viol player Jaap Ter Linden:

I. Adagio ma non tanto:

II. Allegro:

III. Andante:

IV. Allegro:

Recordings

  • J.S. Bach Flute Sonata in E minor, BWV 1034, Konrad Hünteler, Ton Koopman, Jaap Ter Linden Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.