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Bach Series

Melissa Farrow Baroque Flute

BACH Nº 3
Melissa Farrow performs the Bourée Anglaise from JS Bach's Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013

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PROGRAM NOTES

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

PARTITA IN A MINOR, BWV 1013
Bourée Anglaise

‘Partita’ was originally the name for a solo instrumental piece of music in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Various composers, including JS Bach, used the term for collections of musical pieces as a synonym for ‘Suite’. The root word is seemingly the Italian ‘parte’, meaning a ‘part’ or ‘section’.

While the Suite has movements in contrasting – though related – keys, a Partita remains true to its home tonality throughout. This is certainly the case with Bach’s Partita in A minor for solo flute. However, we do not know if JS Bach referred to this work as a Partita since no autograph manuscript survives. Indeed, the only copy from the period bears the name Solo p[our une] flûte traversière par J. S. Bach and, although unattributed, comes to us from the back of a manuscript copy of Bach’s Partitas and Sonatas for solo violin made by a very able pupil of Bach's, Bernhard Christian Kayser.

Principal Flautist of The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Melissa Farrow, has taken a long journey to come to this rendition of the only surviving piece by JS Bach for solo flute:

Quote
I first listened to the JS Bach Partita when I was a teenager, studied it and performed it on modern flute for my Senior Recital at the Con, way back in 1997.

Back then, playing on a silver flute, I took several masterclasses on how to interpret this masterpiece, blindly imitating the teachers’ advice to ‘even out’ everything musically and technically to sound crisp, bright and as perfect as possible. This was simply the typical modern flute approach back then to performing a well-known standard piece, Baroque or not.

These days, when approaching it from a HIP (Historically Informed Performance) perspective, and on a wooden replica one-keyed Baroque flute, I enjoy abandoning nearly everything I learned from the past, scrapping that weary approach for an attempt to breathe new life into this grand solo.

There are only a few solo pieces in the flute’s eighteenth-century repertoire, and so those that exist are played again and again. It feels both risky and exciting to pull the familiarity away and to explore a piece as for the very first time. It is a demanding but very rewarding process to attempt to ‘see’ something new in it and create individuality every time. The genius of the Partita, a collection of dances, lies in the fact that all the movements are connected in some way to each other, either motivically or rhythmically.
MELISSA FARROW

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR
With her wealth of performing experience, Melissa is the person best placed to share insights into this wonderful movement:

Quote
When approaching the Bourée Anglaise in preparation for the performance for Brandenburg One, I looked again into the meaning of the term. As the name suggests, it is an English Bourée, or English country dance (Contredanse), a term not often employed by Bach. These popular court dances were lighter and less formal than other dances.

I read recent articles and dissertations on the Partita, some that compare this movement with similar examples of Bourée anglaises, some suggesting that it really is making a bit of a mockery of itself. Witty features include the opening rhythm’s reversal of the regular Bourée rhythm and the second bar being an augmentation of the first bar, for example. I think Bach is having a bit of fun here - in a piece full of serious and tender A minor Affekt, he even spells his name B-A-C-H, slightly obscured yet floating on top in a top line in the middle of a contrapuntal passage.

I am often questioning how much (or if at all) the German composers which employed ‘mixed style’ into their writing at this time could have used inégale (or inequality) on their fastest notes to give a slight limping feel. I experimented here with the playfulness of the ‘Bourée in reverse’ tinged with a little inégale to try to create a sense of lightness and dance, in a movement that, to me, gives the impression that Bach writes with a little ‘twinkle in his eye’.
MELISSA FARROW


Program Notes: Joanna Butler & Hugh Ronzani, 2020
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020

 


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MELISSA FARROW

Melissa Farrow enjoys a fulfilling career as a period flautist, recorder player, and teacher on the Australian early music scene. She plays a variety of instruments, including various models of traverso (side-blown flute) and recorder.

Growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, Melissa came to Sydney in 1994 to study Undergraduate flute and recorder at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She then completed postgraduate studies at the Conservatorium of Amsterdam in flute, recorder and traverso. On her return to Australia, Melissa chose to focus her attention on the area she loves most, early music, collecting and playing historical instruments from early French model Baroque flutes through to mid-Nineteenth century flutes.

Since 2003, Melissa has been Principal Traverso of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, and is a core member of the Australian Haydn Ensemble and the Orchestra of the Antipodes. Melissa is regularly asked to play with other notable ensembles such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Adelaide Baroque, New Zealand Barok, Ironwood, Latitude 37, Ludivico’s Band, The Marais Project, and for the Sydney and Brisbane Festivals.

As a traverso and recorder soloist with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Melissa has performed a number of concertos including Vivaldi’s La Notte, JS Bach’s Brandenburg 5 Concerto, Telemann’s Concerto for Flute and Violin, Telemann’s E minor Recorder and Flute Concerto and JS Bach’s Brandenburg 4 Concerto and Mozart’s Andante and Flute and Harp Concerto. She plays on several of the Brandenburg’s recordings including The Romantics and Brandenburg Celebrates playing the Telemann Concerto for Flute and Violin with Shaun Lee-Chen.

Over the past ten years, Melissa has been given the fantastic opportunity of curating some of the Brandenburg’s smaller chamber music performances for City of Sydney community centres, Australian Unity communities, Art Gallery of NSW, National Gallery of Australia, and Regional Tours.

Melissa enjoys teaching recorder and Baroque style for both modern and Baroque flute and is a casual lecturer in Baroque Flute at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

View an interview with Melissa Farrow here

Biography: Melissa Farrow, 2020
Image Credit: Georges Antoni, 20219

BAROQUE FLUTE

Fitting to the stylistic demands of the beautiful Bourée Anglaise from the Partita by JS Bach, I play a flamed boxwood Baroque flute. The instrument was initially bought from top European flautist, Michael Schmidt-Casdorff, by a traversist friend, Megan Lang; 15 years after her purchase, I bought the flute from Megan, inspired by its richly sweet depth of character and sound.

The instrument was made in the 1990s by esteemed Austrian flute maker Rudolf Tutz Senior, as a replica of an instrument from the Brussels workshop of IH Rottenburgh from around the 1740s.

Original flutes from the seventeenth to early twentieth centuries can appear at auctions from time to time, but some of the best examples are often kept in museums for makers to measure, or can also be restored and sold on by antique instrument sellers. Most traversists play on replica flutes, as they require so many models to ensure the best encapsulation of varying time periods, locations and pitches.

This four-joint flute has a pair of corps de rechange which are alternative middle joints for playing in either 415 or 392 pitches. Its versatility can also be seen stylistically, wherein its character and sound, played at the low pitch of A=392, suitable for playing music by JS Bach and French composers, creates an attractive, rich tone quality. This richness is due to the use of boxwood as its material form, as every wood has its own response, tone quality and timbre, making different flutes more suitable for certain pieces of music.

Instrument Notes: Melissa Farrow, 2020
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020

FROM THE MANUSCRIPT

The image above of the Bourée Anglaise from Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013, comes from a manuscript copied by Bernhard Christian Kayser ca.1722-1723. The manuscript is held in the Berlin State Library.

Image Credit: Berlin State Library

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Born 21 March 1685 in Eisenach
Died 28 July 1750 in Leipzig
Childhood (1685–1703)
Weimar, Arnstadt, and Mühlhausen (1703–1708)
Return to Weimar (1708–1717)
Köthen (1717–1723)
Leipzig (1723–1750)

Image Credit: Berlin State Library 

FROM OUR PRESENTING PARTNER APA GROUP

APA is proud to support the Brandenburg Bach Series. Arts and entertainment are important to Australia’s diverse culture and economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic these sectors and the artists, musicians, creatives and makers at its core, have been particularly hard hit. Innovation like this online series of recitals is evidence of their innovation and resilience. It will sustain and broaden audiences for this music long into the future.

Image Credit: Katelyn Jane-Dunn, 2020

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