WORKS: Trio Sonatas, Op.2
PERFORMER: London Handel Players
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 084
The London Handel Players have already served their eponymous master admirably in the Op. 5 Trio Sonatas. Now they turn their gaze on a set more than likely cobbled together by the wily publisher John Walsh – plundering a cache of music from Handel’s ‘Chandos’ years, as well as a piece ‘Compos’d’ – if the librettist of Messiah is to be believed – ‘at the age of 14’.
There’s inevitably a stylistic and qualitative unevenness, but Walsh contrived an attractive collection – already persuasively recorded by Sonnerie and (in a bargain box of the ‘complete’ chamber music on Brilliant Classics), L’Ecole d’Orphée. What the London Handel Players bring to the table is a crystal-clear recorded sound which lends a thrilling immediacy to textures which themselves are always elegantly enunciated.
Sonatas Nos 1 and 4 benefit from the expressive eloquence of Rachel Brown’s flute, and in the opening Andante of the B minor, she and Adrian Butterfield converse with flirtatious suppleness – the ravishing Largo her chance to soar like a Handelian operatic diva. The chattering animation of No. 2’s first Allegro fingers Buxtehude; mindful of other backward glances in the sonata the Players ornament accordingly, and they give the Finale a pugnacious presence to compensate for its lack of compositional sophistication. The Sixth Sonata receives a slightly austere reading, but, tenderness to contrapuntal trenchancy, London Handel Players tick most of Op. 2’s multifaceted boxes – and then some. Paul Riley