Handel: Violin Sonatas (complete)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Violin Sonatas (complete)
PERFORMER: Andrew Manze (violin), Richard Egarr (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907259
Handel’s violin sonatas have had a chequered history on disc and they have not been recorded as often as they deserve. Perhaps a deterrent to performers has been what exactly to include – what is in, and what is out. Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr have thought carefully about the matter, have cast their net wide and assembled a programme which includes all the five sonatas whose authorship is secure, three others whose authenticity, many Handelian touches notwithstanding, is doubtful, and two sonata fragments. In short, it is a minefield through which Manze has trodden with circumspection in a clearly argued accompanying note which also explains the reasoning behind omitting a bass stringed instrument in the continuo.

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Manze is a performer whose highly developed sense of fantasy gives his playing an individual, often immediately recognisable stamp. Sometimes the ‘moderato’ in me has militated against his wilder extravagances. Not so here, where the music is played with airy charm, rhythmic élan and wonderfully crisp articulation. The concluding Allegro of the fine D major Sonata strikes my ears as near to perfection as humanly possible, though the noble gestures of the opening movement seem understated. The two most interesting rival versions, by L’École d’Orphée (CRD) and Elisabeth Wallfisch (Hyperion), have many virtues but Manze and Egarr have the edge on them. Nicholas Anderson