Handel: Solo Sonatas, Op. 1

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Solo Sonatas, Op. 1
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin)Paul Goodwin (oboe)Lisa Beznosiuk (flute)Rachel Beckett (recorder)Richard Tunnicliffe (cello)Paul Nicholson (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66921/3 DDD
Mystery shrouds the origins of Handel’s Op. 1 sonatas. They have the rare distinction of being first published (c1726) in a fake ‘pirate’ edition, apparently part of a devious scheme by John Walsh to persuade Handel to let him publish the works officially. The ploy succeeded but Walsh’s lack of scruple did not end there: several ‘Handel’ sonatas he issued are now considered spurious, while others he hastily transcribed for flute to cash in on that instrument’s rising popularity in the 1720s. Recent research has unearthed additional genuine sonatas, so Hyperion’s three-disc set is actually a compilation of twenty solo sonatas (seven for flute, six for recorder, five for violin, two for oboe) that date from c1707 to c1750.

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Unfortunately, Handel’s solo sonatas are not among his more memorable creations. Still, the faster movements have a jaunty gait and many of the slow movements briefly evoke the rapture of his opera arias. The Hyperion team provides lively, attractive versions, though I did wonder if their brisk dispatch gave the music sufficient room to breathe. On their disc ofrecorder sonatas, Marion Verbruggen and her illustrious colleagues select persuasive tempi that allow the music to flow with a graceful facility.