To the Editor:

In his review of BachFest V on September 19 at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, NC, Perry Tannenbaum reports that flutist Kim Pineda expressed the opinion that “circular breathing must have existed at least as far back as the Baroque Era” because of the considerable demands in the flute part of Bach’s Suite in B minor. I think a better answer lies in the fact that this piece was originally conceived for solo violin in A minor, as discussed by Joshua Rifkin in his article “The ‘B-Minor Flute Suite’  Deconstructed: New Light on Bach’s Ouverture, BWV 1067,” Bach Perspective 6: J. S. Bach’s Concerted Ensemble Music, The Ouverture, edited by Gregory Butler, 2007.

In my short article  “Performing  Bach’s B-Minor Flute Suite, BWV 1067,” Bach Notes: The Newsletter of the American Bach Society, Spring 2007, p. 15, I wrote: “The very frequent doubling of the solo flute and first violin parts has always seemed strange to me, whereas Telemann’s treatment of the solo instrument in his A-Minor  Recorder Suite is more natural.  If the original solo instrument in Bach’s Suite had been a violin, however, the doubling makes perfect sense, the solo violin “swimming with the other fish” in the tuttis; and apparently Bach and his copyist made no changes in the revised version  for a solo wind instrument. I have performed this piece observing rests for the flute in some of the tutti passages in the opening  movement, and alternating flute and first violin in some of the other movements.”

Dale Higbee, Music Director, Carolina Baroque
Salisbury, NC

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