Flute Sonata No.2

Johann Sebastian Bach

Flute Sonata No.2 in Eb major


About this work

No copy of this sonata has survived in Bach's hand, yet that's true of all but one of Bach's flute sonatas. Some musicologists suggest that this is the work, at least in part, of C.P.E. Bach or some other composer, yet the authorship has not been disputed seriously enough for this light, entertaining piece to be banned from the Bach catalog. Here, the composer takes note of the emerging galant style of the 1730s, with light textures, simple harmonies, and highly ornamented melodies. The sonata falls into three movements, the pattern familiar from Vivaldi concertos rather than from the more sober, four-movement church and chamber sonatas of the immediately preceding decades. (Bach continued to employ this latter style in several of his other sonatas from this same period.) The first movement, marked Allegro moderato, opens with a keyboard introduction obsessed with a little rolling, melodic figure. The keyboard maintains the basic rhythm of this material throughout the movement (and enjoys further short, solo passages, ritornello style), but the flute offers more sustained, lyrical material. In the slow movement, a Siciliano, the harpsichord is now reduced to a more simplified, tinkling accompaniment role, while the flute plays a particularly haunting melody making good use of the Siciliano's typical dotted pattern. The harpsichord becomes a far more equal partner in the concluding Allegro, an extended movement by the standards of its predecessors. The mood is cheerful, and the keyboard writing remains fairly independent of -- yet always complementary to -- the flute part. The movement also holds touches of counterpoint that move even the most doubtful musicologists to concede that this may, after all, be the work of J.S. Bach.