Accompanied by the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, the Russian flautist Denis Bouriakov performs Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Flute Concerto in D minor, Wq. 22. This performance was recorded live at the Budapest Music Center, Hungary in September 2021.

Accompanied by the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, the Russian flautist Denis Bouriakov performs Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Flute Concerto in D minor, Wq. 22. This performance was recorded live at the Budapest Music Center, Hungary in September 2021.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Flute Concerto in D minor, Wq. 22

The Flute Concerto in D minor, Wq 22, by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, stands as a notable work in the Baroque and early Classical music repertoire, embodying the transition between the two eras and showcasing Bach’s unique compositional style.

This concerto, one of six surviving flute concertos written by Bach during his tenure at the court of King Friedrich II in Berlin and Potsdam between 1744 and 1755, holds a special place in the flute repertoire due to its depth and complexity.

Despite the common belief that these concertos might have been composed for King Friedrich II, a keen flutist, evidence suggests otherwise. Bach’s musical style did not align with the Italian influences preferred by the king, nor were these pieces likely suited to Friedrich’s playing capabilities. Moreover, Friedrich’s music library contained almost no works by Bach, casting further doubt on the intended dedicatee of these concertos.

The D minor concerto, completed in 1747, is documented in various sources, including manuscripts owned by the Prussian princess Anna-Amalia and the sisters Zipporah Wolff and Sarah Levi, indicating Bach’s personal connections with them. A version of the concerto for cembalo as the solo instrument has also been discovered, leading to debates about the original version of the work. However, recent research, particularly for an edition edited by flautist Andras Adorjan, has confirmed the flute and orchestra version as the original.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, recognized as the most successful composer of his family during his lifetime, was renowned not only for his compositions but also as a formidable teacher and author of the influential treatise “Versuch über die wahre Art Clavier zu spielen” (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments). His reputation extended to his prowess as an improviser, surpassing his contemporaries. Bach’s music, characterized by its intellectual rigor and unique style, appealed to intelligent listeners and skilled musicians alike.

Bach did not tailor his compositions to the limitations of the instruments for which he wrote, demanding high technical and interpretative skills from performers. His influence was acknowledged by later composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, who all recognized the value of his contributions to music, despite Bach not founding a specific school of composition.


With start time in the video:

  1. 00:00 Allegro
  2. 7:35 Un poco andante
  3. 15:30 Allegro di molto

1. Allegro

The first movement of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Flute Concerto in D minor, Wq. 22, exemplifies the composer’s innovative approach to musical form and expression, characteristic of the Empfindsamer Stil (sensitive style) that he helped to define. This style is marked by sudden contrasts in mood and dynamics, aiming to express the deepest feelings and emotions through music. The movement is structured in a fast tempo, adhering to the baroque concerto tradition, yet it also incorporates elements that foreshadow the classical concerto form.

In this movement, Bach masterfully balances the solo flute’s expressive capabilities with the orchestral ensemble, creating a dynamic interplay between the soloist and the orchestra. The opening, often dramatic and filled with minor-key tension, showcases Bach’s skill in crafting engaging themes that are both memorable and complex. The solo flute part is technically demanding, featuring rapid passages, wide leaps, and intricate ornamentation that require a high level of virtuosity from the performer.

The dialogue between the flute and the orchestra is central to the movement’s structure, with the soloist often taking the lead in exploring thematic material, while the orchestra supports, complements, and occasionally contrasts the solo line. This interplay is punctuated by moments of harmonic tension and release, which are characteristic of Bach’s music and contribute to the emotional depth of the piece.

Bach’s use of harmony in this movement is particularly noteworthy, as it moves beyond the traditional harmonic progressions of the Baroque period, incorporating unexpected shifts and modulations that lend the music a sense of unpredictability and emotional intensity. These harmonic elements, combined with the expressive melodies and the dynamic interplay between soloist and orchestra, make the first movement of the Flute Concerto in D minor a compelling and sophisticated work that challenges both the performer and the listener.

This movement, like much of Bach’s work, reflects his intellectual approach to composition, where the emotional content is conveyed not just through melody and rhythm, but through a complex web of harmonic and structural innovations. It serves as a testament to Bach’s position at the forefront of musical development in his time, bridging the gap between the Baroque and Classical periods with his deeply expressive and technically challenging compositions.

2. Un poco andante

The second movement of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Flute Concerto in D minor, Wq. 22, stands in stark contrast to the energetic and dynamic first movement, embodying the essence of the Empfindsamer Stil, or “sensitive style,” that Bach is known for. This style emphasizes the expression of deep emotions and personal feelings through music, often through the use of expressive melodies, sudden changes in dynamics, and unexpected harmonic shifts.

Characteristically slow and contemplative, the second movement serves as a lyrical interlude that showcases the solo flute’s expressive capabilities. The tempo is significantly reduced, allowing for a more intimate dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra. The movement is structured to highlight the flute’s melodic lines, which are often long, flowing, and embellished with delicate ornamentation, demonstrating the instrument’s capacity for emotional expression.

The orchestration in this movement is subdued and supportive, providing a harmonic foundation that complements the solo flute without overshadowing it. The strings, in particular, play a crucial role in creating a warm and tender backdrop against which the flute’s melodies can soar. The use of dynamics is more restrained than in the first movement, with gentle shifts that enhance the movement’s introspective quality.

Harmonically, Bach explores a rich palette of chords and modulations that add depth and complexity to the movement. These harmonic elements are carefully chosen to evoke a wide range of emotions, from longing and melancholy to moments of serene beauty. The movement’s structure allows for these emotional shifts to unfold naturally, drawing the listener into a deeply personal musical journey.

3. Allegro di molto

The third movement of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Flute Concerto in D minor, Wq. 22, brings the concerto to a vibrant and spirited conclusion, reflecting the composer’s innovative approach to rhythm, texture, and form. This movement is characterized by its lively tempo and rhythmic vitality, showcasing Bach’s ability to merge the Baroque concerto grosso form with the emerging Classical style’s emphasis on melodic development and structural clarity.

In this final movement, the music bursts forth with energy and dynamism, marked by a brisk tempo that demands technical agility and precision from the soloist. The flute part is replete with rapid passages, intricate runs, and lively articulations that highlight the instrument’s versatility and the performer’s virtuosity. The solo flute engages in a spirited dialogue with the orchestra, which responds with robust thematic material and rhythmic support, creating a lively interchange between the soloist and the ensemble.

Bach’s compositional brilliance is evident in the way he weaves complex counterpoint and fugal elements into the fabric of the movement, a nod to his Baroque heritage, while also pushing forward into the Classical era with clear thematic development and harmonic exploration. The movement’s structure allows for moments of tension and release, with the solo flute often leading the charge in driving the music forward.

The orchestration in the third movement is more pronounced than in the preceding slow movement, with the full ensemble participating in the musical discourse. The strings, along with the continuo section, provide a pulsating rhythmic foundation that propels the movement, while winds occasionally add color and contrast to the texture.

Harmonically, Bach employs bold modulations and unexpected harmonic turns that keep the listener engaged and maintain a sense of excitement and anticipation throughout the movement. These harmonic shifts support the dynamic interplay between the soloist and the orchestra, enhancing the overall sense of drama and urgency.

The third movement concludes the concerto on a note of exhilaration and triumph, encapsulating the essence of Bach’s musical innovation and his contribution to the development of the concerto form. It is a testament to his skill in balancing the demands of soloistic virtuosity with the cohesive integration of the ensemble, all while exploring new harmonic and structural territories. This movement, like the concerto as a whole, stands as a vibrant example of Bach’s ability to speak to both the intellect and the emotions, offering a fitting finale to a work that spans the breadth of human expression.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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