Handel: ‘My favourite instrument’: Concertos, sonatas and arias
When reminded of his six early trio sonatas, Handel is said to have remarked that he ‘used to write like the devil in those days and chiefly for the oboe, which was my favourite instrument’. The trio sonatas in question, however, have not been authenticated and none are included by Xenia Löffler (who was nominated in this year’s BBC Music Magazine Awards) in her thoughtfully constructed programme. What she and soprano Marie Friederike Schöder have chosen, though, fully illustrates Handel’s intuitive understanding of the oboe’s expressive range.
Best known among the oboe works in Löffler’s programme are the Concerto in G minor, HWV 287 and a C minor Sonata, HWV 366. Readers will be less familiar with a Trio Sonata in B flat for oboe and violin, HWV 388 and a Double Concerto in C minor for oboe, bassoon and strings, HWV deest (not included in the Handel catalogue). While the Trio is an early version of the Sonata for two violins, Op. 2, No. 3, the attractive Double Concerto, alas, is not by or even like Handel at all. It seems odd to include it here when there are other oboe pieces with perhaps more compelling claims to authenticity.
Never mind. Löffler is fluent and expressive both in her capacity as soloist and in her sympathetic partnership with Schöder whose arias from Handel’s earliest opera, Almira, from Teseo and from the serenata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo have been chosen to highlight the shared virtuosity of voice and instrument. Stylish support from the Batzdorfer Hofkapelle sets the seal on a rewarding issue.