Arne: Trio Sonatas (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Arne
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Trio Sonatas (complete)
PERFORMER: Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0666
Thomas Arne was apparently a quarrelsome fellow who made enemies of nearly everyone, including his wife. You wouldn’t know it from these galant trio sonatas, which are the epitome of unassuming elegance (though it is noticeable that the Fifth Sonata’s curiously titled Largo ed amoroso is the set’s shortest movement, lasting a mere 47 seconds). Arne is of course best known for his theatre music, not least the chorus ‘Rule, Britannia’ from his opera Alfred. But he also produced a small body of instrumental music, including this set of seven trio sonatas, first published in 1757.

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Although Arne’s galant sonatas may seem lightweight compared to the best works of his Baroque predecessors, they do repay careful listening. Slow movements – if frustratingly brief at times – offer some affecting melodic contours; fast movements often have a sprightly vigour. There are echoes, too, of Arne’s theatre work: the Fourth Sonata’s opening Largo could be a distilled tragic overture, while the same sonata’s bizarre third movement suggests a programmatic origin.

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Collegium Musicum 90, slimmed to a quartet of Simon Standage, Micaela Comberti (violins), Jane Coe (cello) and Nicholas Parle (harpsichord), provides assured, stylish performances that amply reflect the fluency and polish of these unfairly overlooked works. Graham Lock