Handel: Sonatas for Violin and Basso Continuo

The Brook Street Band (Avie)

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Handel Sonatas for Violin and Basso Continuo
The Brook Street Band
Avie AV2387 80:00 mins

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Handel’s Violin Sonatas have attracted less attention on disc than those which he wrote for flute, oboe and recorder. The problem for performers is what exactly to include. There are five Sonatas whose authorship is secure, three others whose authenticity, notwithstanding seemingly Handelian touches, remain doubtful and two sonata fragments. The Brook Street Band play all the works indisputably by Handel as well as those generally accepted as part of the canon.

Alfredo Campoli with harpsichordist George Malcolm was the first to bring these classics of the violin repertoire to a wide public with his 1950s recording. Since then violinists have recorded the Sonatas in various configurations demonstrating a widely differing approach to ornamentation and to basso continuo colour and strength. Rachel Harris and her colleagues have settled for a modest but effective accompaniment of cello and harpsichord. Readers familiar with their invigorating recordings of Handel’s Trio Sonatas, Opp. 2 and 5 will not be disappointed by this new release. The music, dare I say it, is on occasion uneven in quality, but the finest music of which there is much reaches a peak with the D major Sonata, HWV371, coming across with natural grace and effective articulation. The violin sound may strike some as a little hard and edgy to begin with but my ears became adjusted to it.

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Nicholas Anderson