Flute Sonata No.3

Johann Sebastian Bach

Flute Sonata No.3 in A major


About this work

In this sonata, the keyboard is no mere continuo instrument filling chords in a purely accompanimental role; it's a full partner, with the right and left hands providing melodic lines of their own. This is the only Bach flute sonata to survive into the twentieth century in a manuscript by Bach himself (the autographed score, however, was destroyed during World War II). Unfortunately, 46 bars of the first movement were at some point scissored out, and modern editions fill this gap with new material derived from the movement's first half. The work falls into three movements, like a Vivaldi concerto, rather than the four-movement church sonata structure Bach employed in several other flute sonatas. The first movement, Vivace, begins with a full harpsichord introduction, music that will return through the movement, sometimes abbreviated, in ritornello fashion. The flute arrives with its own take on this material, and the flute and harpsichord proceed to work through this and related, bouncy music in full three-voice writing (although the left-hand harpsichord part is comparatively rudimentary). The slow movement, Largo e dolce, is a poignant flute aria with the harpsichord sometimes providing restless counter material, sometimes echoing the flute melody and at one point reducing its role to a long trill. The concluding Allegro proceeds along lines similar to the first movement, but with a steady forward melodic drive replacing the earlier movement's more rhythmic propulsion.