Flute and Voice Combine in an Entrancing Bach Programme

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Bach: Sir James Galway, Lady Jeanne Galway, Hannah Davey, Orchestra of St John’s / John Lubbock (conductor), Town Hall, Cheltenham, 11.9.2012. (RJ)

Concerto in C major for 3 Harpichords, BWV 1064 (arr. for strings)
Ich folge Dir gleichfalls
(from St John Passion, BWV 245)
Blute nur Du liebes Herz
(from St Matthew Passion, BWV 244)
Brandenburg Concerto No 4 in G, BWV 1049
Lebens Sonne, Licht der Sinnen
(from Cantata 180)
Schafe können sicher weiden
(from Cantata 208 – Hunting Cantata)
Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt
(IV) – chorale prelude for organ BWV 1113 (arr. for strings)
Orchestral Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067

Sheep may safely graze(Schafe können sicher weiden) is best known in a transcription for piano or organ. However, it first appeared as an aria for soprano with flute obbligato in Bach’s secular Hunting Cantata of 1713, and this was the version we heard at this concert. The singer, Hannah Davey, was supported by two of the leading flautists of our age – Sir James Galway and his wife Lady Jeanne Galway, and the result was sheer delight. Hannah Davey’s voice had the purity of tone and clarity which is so essential for Baroque music and needless to say the Galways were in top form.

The voice-flute combination had something of an outing in this concert which “lifted” a number of arias from longer works by Bach. Ich folge Dir gleichfalls (I follow you likewise) from the St John Passion, was an intimate affair with Sir James providing the flute obbligato with harpsichord and cello continuo and Hannah Galway expressing innocence and religious commitment. Lady Jeanne then joined her husband and the full 12-piece Orchestra of St John’s in the moving, sorrowful  Blute nur, Du liebes Herz (Bleed on, Dear Heart) from the St Matthew Passion.  Lebens Sonne, Licht der Sinnen (Sun of Life, Light of the Senses) from Cantata 180 was a much more cheerful affair with Hannah Davey communicating the radiance of the words over a rollicking accompaniment from flutes and orchestra.

The concert had opened with an arrangement for strings of the Concerto in C major for Three Harpsichords believed to date from Bach’s later period. John Lubbock brought out the liveliness and invention of the two outer movements, but the slow movement sounded rather dour in comparison.  Later we were to hear Lubbock’s orchestration of the chorale prelude for organ  Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt (IV) which, while undeniably beautiful and showing the music in a different light, purists might regard as “an arrangement too far”.

Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg Concerto saw the two Galways in action again, though not with fiauti  d’echo (treble recorders) as specified by the score. Not that really bothered anyone. However the star of the performance was actually the violinist, Martin Burgess, who packed plenty of energy and virtuosity into his playing – like a latter-day Paganini. There was an exciting rapport between all three soloists in the bubbly first and third movements, and the poignant lament of the second touched the soul.

I greatly enjoyed Bach’s masterful six movement Orchestral Suite No 2 with Sir James  dominating the action.  This is music of infinite variety with a catchy Rondeau which set the tone for what was to follow.  The dreamy Sarabande and courtly Polonaise entranced the ear, and in the concluding Badinerie – something of a showpiece for flautists – Sir James accelerated the pace to a gallop with the OSJ and its conductor in hot pursuit.  The irrepressible (and generous-spirited) Irishman returned to give three encores, the last being the Badinerie again – played at twice the previous speed!


Roger Jones