£16 post free World-wide


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

What's New
Previous CDs
Labels index

Every Day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
Founder Len Mullenger   


AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Seven Trio Sonatas Op.5
Sonata No.1 in A major HWV396 [8.20]
Sonata No.2 in D major HWV397 [8.06]
Sonata No.3 in E minor HWV398 [11.40]
Sonata No.4 in G major HWV399 [13.38]
Sonata No.5 in G minor HWV400 [11.37]
Sonata No.6 in F major HWV401 [15.03]
Sonata No.7 in B flat major HWV402 [9.21]
London Handel Players
Recorded at St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow, January 2005
SOMM CD044 [78.38]


As I noted in my review of The Brook Street Band’s recording of these trio sonatas both traversals arrived on my desk within the same week. The main difference between them is that the London Handel Players employ an oboe for three of the sonatas (Nos.1, 3 and 6) and a viola whereas the BSB keep to two violins, cello and harpsichord/chamber organ throughout. The Op.5 set is generally derived from pre-existing music taken from Concerti Grossi, Anthems, oratorio and opera though there is certainly some newly composed music. Originally written for two violins or German flutes the Somm team has decided on variety and so Rachel Brown takes the honours as flautist in those three sonatas, which she does with conspicuous artistry and tonal imagination.

These are well-shaped and thoroughly elegant performances, more recital hall in character than The Brook Street Band’s more al fresco and dynamic incursions. Dynamics are equable but subtle, phrases are gently cantilevered; and corporate tonal nuances are attended to. They promote optimum clarity and manage to retain considerable control over tempo relations, so that very little seems amiss. Set against the BSB however and the London Handel Players can seem rather sedate; the former’s outsize drama can make the lucid but constrained elegance of the LHP seem reserved or non-committal, when it’s not actually the case.

Certainly the drone effects of the Musette of No.2 are far more sharply, indeed rudely etched in the case of The Brook Street Band’s performance. Overall the LHP steer a far more reserved and patrician route through these trio sonatas; their colour (March of No.2) and elegance are palpable however and they come within bowing distance of The BSB’s tempo. The latter’s articulation and accents are that much deeper however and their tempos seem much faster through the sheer dynamism of their playing. That said I prefer the more sensible final cadences of the second movement of No.4 in the LHP’s hands; the BSB really go to town on it.

I also prefer the Somm team’s control of the melancholy rhetoric embedded in No.5 where they really do mine the operatic intensities on show, though indisputably they do sound rather earnest in the same sonata’s A tempo giusto fourth movement, especially in contrast with the BSB’ very personal vein of extrovert immediacy.

In the end choice will depend on the textual decisions made, whether to embrace the flute-led trio sonatas of the Somm or to stick to the unvarying instrumentation of the Avie. And whether one prefers the smooth and rather elegant precision of the LHP to the cut and thrust of the BSB. The version that makes these works live more dangerously is the Avie and that recording is rich in personality and intimate drama. But if you prefer a more patrician and easy going geniality the London Handel Players, recorded well in a Walthamstow church, will give pleasure.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Northern Flowers
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.