Bach’s Flute Sonatas are new to Angela Hewitt, and to get to know them she has stepped back from her spot as one of the world’s great Bach soloists and is working as accompanist to Andrea Oliva. The energy Miss Hewitt brings to this project is fresh, and her interest in working with Oliva is fresh: the freshness in their teamwork makes you want to listen to these performances again and again.
I like what Miss Hewitt says she likes about Oliva’s playing: “… his wide variety of colours on the flute, his secure technique and his great musicianship. He makes the instrument sing.” Agreed. She adds, “I had never heard the flute sound like that before,” without elaborating. In my listening to the G minor’s opening Allegro, Oliva’s saturated colours, rich intonation and mellifluous flow made me forget the flute and imagine I was listening to a clarinet. A similar honeyed feeling works through the first three movements of the lovely E minor, especially the canon of the Andante.
There is pleasure to be had listening to Miss Hewitt’s piano as the score alternates her place from the front to the rear of the music: even in a quiet, accompanying roll behind Oliva’s virtuosic passages, you can hear a subtle melody singing through her progressions. For the most part, the variety of tempi and mood (from festive to formal to lamenting) in the Bach, the way Hewitt and Oliva manage the dance of soloist and accompanist, support extended listening with full attention to this excellent recording. I must confess that by track 15 I began to notice a certain shrillness in the flute and a distance in the placement of the piano. This was redeemed in the B Minor by Hewitt and Oliva’s skill in storytelling, which makes them such good company.