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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
Complete Chamber Music, Volume 1 – Flute Sonatas
Flute Sonata, Opus 1 No. 1a in E minor
Hallenser Sonata No. 1 in A minor
Hallenser Sonata No. 2 in E minor
Hallenser Sonata No. 3 in B minor
Sonata in D major (HWV 378)
Flute Sonata, Opus 1 No. 4 in G major
Flute Sonata, Opus 1 No. 9 in B minor
Flute Sonata, Opus 1 No. 1b in E minor

L’Ecole d’Orphée
Stephen Preston (flute)
Susan Sheppard (cello)
John Toll (harpsichord)
Lucy Carolan (harpsichord)
Recorded 1991
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99777-35 [74.22]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759) – Complete Chamber Music, Volume 2 –Violin Sonatas, Oboe Sonatas
Violin Sonata in A major
Violin Sonata in G minor
Oboe Sonata in B flat major
Violin Sonata in D minor
Oboe Sonata in C minor
Violin movement in A minor
Violin Movement in Cm minor
Oboe Sonata in F major
Violin Sonata in D major

L’Ecole d’Orphée
John Holloway (violin)
David Reichenberg (oboe)
Susan Sheppard (cello)
Lucy Carolan (harpsichord)
Recorded 1991
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99777-36 [57.42]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759) – Complete Chamber Music, Volume 3 – Trio Sonatas Opus 2

John Holloway (violin)
Micaela Comberti (violin)
Stephen Preston (flute)
Philip Pickett (recorder)
Susan Sheppard (cello)
Robert Woolley (harpsichord)
John Toll (harpsichord)
Recorded 1991
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99777-37 [60.21]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759) – Complete Chamber Music, Volume 4 – Trio Sonatas Opus 5

John Holloway (violin)
Micaela Comberti (violin)
Susan Sheppard (cello)
John Toll (harpsichord)
Lucy Carolan (harpsichord)
Recorded 1991
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99777-38 [70.18]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759) – Complete Chamber Music, Volume 5 – Trio Sonatas for 2 Violins and basso continuo

John Holloway (violin)
Micaela Comberti (violin)
Alison Bury (violin)
Susan Sheppard (cello)
Lucy Carolan (harpsichord)
Robert Woolley (harpsichord)
Recorded 1991
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99777-39 [65.41]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759) – Complete Chamber Music, Volume 6 – Recorder Sonatas

Philip Pickett (recorder)
Rachel Beckett (recorder)
Susan Sheppard (cello)
Lucy Carolan (harpsichord)
Recorded 1991
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99777-40 [66.52]

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In the eighteenth century, money was to be made in publishing by producing chamber music suitable for the home market. A volume of sonatas by Handel would thus give access to his music for all those people who were unable to attend performances but nonetheless would enjoy playing his music at home. Handel’s Opus 1 was an attempt by John Walsh to cash in on the market. Published in the 1730s this was a period when Handel began to realise the benefits from publishing such works and he would eventually collaborate with Walsh on a number of publishing ventures; however the Opus 1 is purely a pirate issue. In fact, Handel probably chose Walsh as his official publisher mainly because he was the most successful pirate.

The Opus 1 sonatas contain a mixture of sonatas for various instruments, some of which might not even be by Handel. The disc of flute sonatas contains the four flute sonatas from Opus 1 along with the three Halle sonatas and another flute sonata which was discovered in the 1980s, so the disc has all of the known flute sonatas. The so-called Halle sonatas were called this by Chrysander because he thought they were early sonatas. In fact, they might not be by Handel at all, but they are fine music nonetheless. Handel would not have expected to hear all of these sonatas played continuously and might even have expected some of them to be played on another instrument, but Stephen Preston plays them infectiously and beautifully.

The second disc mixes the Violin sonatas and the Oboe sonatas. This has the advantage of giving us a more variety of timbre when listening to these discs complete. John Holloway’s tone on the violin is apt to be a little on the dry side, but David Reichenberg produces a wonderfully mellifluous oboe tone. These are all charming works and Handel’s melodic felicity shines through. Not knowing the exact provenance of the music can be frustrating as it would be interesting to know more about the dates when the works were composed. As it is, it is pleasant to hear material which is better known in another context (such as an aria) played in its instrumental form.

The third disc contains the Opus 2 trio sonatas. These were published by Walsh in 1733. Some movements contain borrowings from the oratorios (Athalia and Esther), but number 2 (in G minor) may be Handel’s earliest datable composition. And the fourth disc contains the Opus 5 trio sonatas. These were published by Walsh in 1739, by which time Handel was taking more of a pro-active interest in the publishing enterprise; he had edited the Opus 4 Organ concerti for publication. Though the trio sonatas contain music from other works (the Canons anthems, operas from 1734-1735 and Athalia), Handel also wrote new music for these works. Both these two discs are the highlight of this group; the trio sonatas are beautifully played by the members of L’Ecole d’Orfée. In the Opus 5 trio sonatas, John Holloway and Micaela Comberti are well matched and play this delightful music infectiously. For the Opus 2 trio sonatas they are joined by Stephen Preston’s flute and Philip Pickett’s recorder. The fifth disc further trio sonatas played by John Holloway, Micaela Comberti and Alison Bury; unfortunately here a hint of steeliness creeps in to the violin tone. On the final disc, Philip Pickett and Rachel Beckett play the recorder sonatas. Though Pickett plays brilliantly, by the end of the disc I had the unworthy thought that a whole CD of recorder sonatas, even by Handel, was a little bit too much recorder all in one go, but it makes an excellent disc to dip into – as do they all. This is not concert hall music; it was written (or arranged) for people to play at home. On this recording you get a real feeling of a group of friends interacting with each other and enjoying themselves.

I cannot recommend this set too highly. At super budget price the discs are recommendable both to dedicated Handelians and to everyone else. The discs are available separately or as part of the 40 disc Handel Masterworks set. I would advise everyone to buy them. The only fly in the ointment is that Brilliant have issued the discs with no supporting documentation whereas they have also been issued by Regis as a 6 CD set along with some informative notes.

Robert Hugill



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