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Hellendaal: Cambridge Sonatas

Guirim Choi (cello), Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord), Johannes Pramsohler (violin) (Audax)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Cambridge Sonatas – Sonatas Nos 1-6
Guirim Choi (cello), Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord), Johannes Pramsohler (violin)
Audax ADX13720   63:00 mins


Dutch composer Pieter Hellendaal is one of a small number of foreign composers who settled in England during the 18th century. A pupil of Tartini, he was a gifted composer as well as being an accomplished violinist whose Six Grand Concertos, or concerti grossi, plentifully endowed with English seasoning, deserve to be better known. In 1762 Hellendaal settled in Cambridge where he lived and served as an organist until his death in 1799.

The six Sonatas on this disc are drawn from a manuscript collection preserved in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and are not to be confused with collections printed as the composer’s Opp 1, 2 and Op. 4. Sometimes the Corelli template is clearly on display, but these Cambridge Sonatas break, often startlingly, with Corellian conservatism and notably in fugal movements which push boundaries, both technical and expressive, to impressive heights.

Johannes Pramsohler has on several occasions recently proved his intuitive musicianship, notably with his London and Parisalbums which I have previously reviewed in these pages. In this recording, his skilfully poised bow highlights the considerable merits of this unjustly overlooked music. Slow movements are mostly lyrically expressive, while faster ones are generally genial with an abundance of individual gestures, some of which foreshadow early classicism. All these ingredients blend well in movements like the tripartite conclusion of the Sonata No. 2 in A major and the opening of the Sonata No. 6 in D major. There are melodic patterns, too, which momentarily bring to mind those of his teacher, Tartini. This world-premiere recording is affectionately and stylishly played by Pramsohler and his responsive cello and harpsichord continuo.


Nicholas Anderson