Charming Handel Violin Sonatas from The Brook Street Band

Review by: David Hurwitz

HandelBrook

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

The Brook Street Band has produced attractive recordings of Handel’s chamber music for Avie, and this newcomer is no exception. There are nine Handel violin sonatas, theoretically, and all of them are included here. Of course, with Handel you never really know. Five sonatas exist in verifiable manuscripts, four were printed without any demonstrable input from the composer, and all of them may well use music by others, as was Handel’s wont. But none of it matters because, as Tovey perspicaciously observed, every note added by Handel annihilates the rest.

The first sonata (in G, HWV158) dates from Handel’s days in Italy, and it’s the only work in three movements. I was a bit worried here because in the central slow movement violinist Rachel Harris adopts a “period instrument tone” that has soft, sustained notes on the verge of disappearing entirely. Of course, a decent vibrato would have helped, but as the saying goes, if the basic timbre is unattractive that’s like trying to put lipstick on a pig. Happily, once past the Sonata in G, Harris shows that her sound in sustained music, while slender, is mellow, touching, and sensitively varied.

The remaining sonatas are all in “church” style, that is four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast(ish). Three are in minor keys, smartly dispersed within the broadly chronological ordering of the set, and they provide welcome contrast to the general predominance of charm and cheer. Of course, all of the music is charming, with an abundance of melody that suggests, as the booklet notes state, that Handel’s authorship even in the four doubtful works is more likely than not. If eighty minutes of less than familiar Handel, elegantly presented and naturally recorded sounds appealing, then by all means give this disc serious consideration.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this collection


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