Handel: Recorder Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Accent
WORKS: Recorder Sonatas
PERFORMER: Peter Van Heyghen (recorder), Kris Verhelst (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: ACC 98126
Handel, favoured among recorder players for remaining loyal to their instrument when most other Baroque masters were turning to the fashionably new transverse flute, has six autographed recorder sonatas in his catalogue. Both these discs include the Op. 1 sonatas, although only Van Heyghen and Verhelst are faithful to the manuscript marking ‘Sonata a Flauto e Cembalo’, preferring not to use a bass continuo for the entire disc. On the other hand, Baroque cellist Hidemi Suzuki joins Laurin and Masaaki Suzuki, and certainly installs a driving momentum within each sonata. An organ further replaces the harpsichord in three instances, lending the pieces a soft-focused feel.

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These recordings are different indeed. Laurin, on alto recorder, possesses a more richly lambent tone than Van Heyghen. His interpretations, together with the Suzukis, are more majestic, almost concerto-like; his expressive range is large, Handel’s cantabile lines truly sing.

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In contrast, Van Heyghen’s his tone is clearly focused, he plays with a direct attack and rarely loiters. Verhelst is an inventive harpsichordist, and together they push tempos to an exciting pace. They produce a purer, yet for me less-enticing vibrancy than Laurin and co. Kate Sherriff