Complete Recorder Sonatas
David Antich (recorders); Mediterrània Consort
IBS Classical IBS32022 61:02 mins
Handel’s six Sonatas for treble recorder and basso continuo are pieces of outstanding merit. Together with Telemann’s recorder sonatas they represent Parnassian peaks of the late Baroque literature for the instrument. Rewarding if also demanding to play, their vigour, fertile invention and melodic allure offer sustained delight. Seasoned Handelians furthermore may frequently encounter musical quotations and ideas that will be familiar in other contexts instrumental and vocal.
David Antich is not only a player of technical accomplishment but also demonstrates in his phrasing, ornamentation and choice of tempos a lively sense of apposite style. Sometimes his ornaments struck my sensibilities as a touch excessive – the repeat sections of the concluding Allegro of the G minor Sonata provide an illustration of what I mean. Some readers, I am sure, will disagree, but I doubt if many will be disappointed by Antich’s overview of the music. Slow movements fare particularly well, with unhurried tempos and well-sustained melodic lines. The splendid A minor Sonata finds Antich at his most persuasive, with crisply and playfully articulated allegros and eloquently spoken slower movements. Comparably well-judged is the just tempo he has chosen for the concluding Menuet of the D minor Sonata (the break-neck speed to which this dance is nowadays all too often subjected is both incomprehensible and disagreeable).
Antich is discreetly and effectively supported throughout by an imaginatively deployed continuo group. Handel took particular care over these continuo parts, an indication perhaps of their underlying didactic role in the education of the children of the royal family.