ALBUM TITLE: Handel
WORKS: Trio Sonatas for Two Violins and Basso Continuo
PERFORMER: The Brook Street Band
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2357
As mopping-up operations go, the Brook Street Band’s disc of sundry Handel trio sonatas adds a stylish postscript to previous releases. It also presents a chronological journey through the composer’s life from the early Hamburg days to late 1730s London; and although the music stands outside the opus-numbered fold, there’s much readily recognisable Handel, inveterate recycler as he was. Some surprises too, with the viola-less early version of the overture to Esther proving a convincing addition to the trio sonata canon.
In a sense, the disc is an ingeniously assembled 20th birthday present to an ensemble ‘at home’ in Handel’s world – Brook Street was, after all, Handel’s Mayfair address for most of his London life. The musical language is so second nature to the Band that its playing has the unbuttoned relish of musicians relaxing in a mother tongue. The breezy banter of the Hamburg Sinfonia’s opening movement gives notice of an incisive verve that prevails throughout the disc – buoyed up by a conversational attentiveness that never flags, and ensemble so pin-sharp it merits a safety warning. Occasionally a little extra shade could counterbalance the tonal brilliance, but the ‘Dresden’ Sonata’s Andante proves a suave mix of edginess and melting lyricism, while the following Allegro is deliciously characterised. Impeccably nuanced, the concluding Saul Sonata confers a brilliantly refulgent C major adieu on a birthday release that will invite many happy returns!