> HANDEL Oboe Concertos Regis [CF]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Oboe concertos and sonatas
Concerto No.1 for Oboe in Bb major (HWV 301)
Sonata for Oboe and Continuo in F major (HWV 363a)
Sonata for Oboe and Continuo in G minor (Op.1/6;HWV 364a)
Concerto No.2 for Oboe in Bb major (HWV 302a)
Sonata in G minor, violins and continuo (HWV 404)
Sonata for Oboe and Continuo in Bb major (HWV 357)
Sonata for Oboe and Continuo in C minor (Op.1/8;HWV 366)
Concerto No.3 for Oboe in G minor (HWV 287)
Sarah Francis (oboe)
London Harpsichord Ensemble
Recorded in St Michaelís Church, Highgate, London, February 1994
REGIS RRC1106 [62.25]

This is a splendid disc, full in sound, my only quibble a too cello-biased balance with the harpsichord in passages for just those two instruments. Sarah Francis is one of the great British oboists of our time and imbues her playing not only with technical ease but also a wonderful sense of phrasing, line and style. Backed by the evergreen London Harpsichord Ensemble, founded over half a century ago by her father John, it can lay claim to be Ďthe longest-established chamber music group in Britainí and Francis fille has been its Director for 21 years. This is a definitive collection and a nicely varied mix of concertos and sonatas. Some of them seem very familiar (when you look at the highly daunting display on the back cover with its endless lists of movements totalling thirty-two tracks, the possibility seems unlikely) such as the Menuet which ends the F major sonata, and indeed this music turns up again in a later version as part of the Concerto Grosso Op.3 No.4. The G minor sonata was actually written first for violin with unplayable notes below the stave but alternatives written in the autograph manuscript indicate that Handel probably approved the use of the wind rather than the stringed instrument. There are some other memorable moments, such as the beautiful Siciliana as the third movement of the first concerto in Bb, while the main theme of the finale to the third concerto turns up in at least three other works including an organ concerto.

So itís a mix of familiar music at times, and several revelatory introductions to the relatively unknown at others, and what looks a dull prospect is anything but in the hands of these accomplished musicians. They clearly know what they are about. Incidentally Regisís choice of paintings and standard of reproduction for the covers of their CD booklets is of a consistently high standard. In this instance itís a detail from Tournemireís ĎLa Barre and his musiciansí which is in the National Gallery in London.

Christopher Fifield

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