Handel: Six Cello Sonatas (trans. Gibley)

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Handel
WORKS: Six Cello Sonatas (trans. Gibley)
PERFORMER: The Brook Street Band: Tatty Theo (cello), Carolyn Gibley (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2118
Ardent devotees of Handel’s music will know that the composer wrote no sonatas for cello, though many memorable cello solos appear in the body of his vocal work. Understandable, then, that Tatty Theo and Carolyn Gibley, both of them ardent Handelians, should wish to remedy the situation. The six Solos featured on this disc are arrangements and key transpositions by Gibley of sonatas which Handel wrote for the treble recorder. Four of them are contained in a set published in the 1720s as his Opus 1, while the remaining two, in A minor (tracks 6-12) and F major (tracks 21-23) are preserved in autograph versions in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. As so often with Handel, several pieces here may be familiar to readers in other contexts. A notable example of such recycling occurs in the C major Sonata (tracks 13-16) which Handel later reworked as an Organ Concerto (Op. 4, No. 5).

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Theo and Gibley play their transcriptions with impeccable style and with a warm rapport for the music. Indeed the instrumentation often sounds so idiomatic and tonally apposite that we might almost feel entitled to assume Handel’s approbation of these versions. Slow movements come off especially well and, in one or two instances such as the opening movement of the D minor Sonata (track 17), the sustaining power of a bowed string instrument has an advantage over a recorder. Faster ones do not invariably fare quite as well, the concluding gigue of the F major (track 23) sounding a bit of a scramble. All in all, though, an enjoyable programme, well recorded and presented. Nicholas Anderson