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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonatas for Recorder and Harpsichord

Sonata in G minor [7:25]
Sonata in A minor [10:18]
Sonata in C major [10:19]
Sonata in F major [7:09]
Sonata in B flat major [5:21]
Sonata in D minor [15:13]
Michala Petri (recorders) and Keith Jarrett (harpsichord)
Recorded at Keith Jarrett's Cavelight Studios, Oxford, New Jersey, 1-3 June 1990
BMG CLASSICS (RCA RED SEAL) 82876 65835 2 [56:11]


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What do you get when two 'big' names join forces to record 'little' music such as these sonatas? This disc gives you your answer: it's a rare treat!

I say 'little' only because this music is emotionally lightweight. But it really is first rate stuff. Mostly bright and melodic, as befits the solo instrument's playful nature, and not without contrapuntal interest or, as ever with Handel, supremely clever workmanship. Sprightly dance numbers abound. You'll probably recognise half-familiar tunes which you've encountered - or think you've encountered - elsewhere in Handel's instrumental music. As so often with baroque composers, in an age before recorded music, Handel wasn't averse to recycling his music for further use, if only for an easy life, or for a quick adjustment to his bank balance.

After years of examining student performers grappling with impossible technical limitations, I have to say this disc destroys my many preconceived notions - 'pet hates', I was going to say - about recorder players - flat ends of phrases, wavering long notes, and limited musical interest to match the negligible dynamic range. Or about jazz players 'going classical' - insensitivity to style and tone, and over-intrusive personalities. In fact this is top-drawer playing from Petri and Jarrett: beautifully polished, rhythmically alive and delicately expressive.

Of course baroque specialists and jazz musicians share one thing in this kind of repertory in their need to improvise - in this case, the recorder to ornament Handel's simple lines, and the harpsichordist to fill out Handel's figured bass. Petri and Jarrett acquit themselves admirably, as if to the manner born, striking that elusive golden mean between indulgence and negligence.

This disc offers spirited and committed performances of some of the composer's most diverting music. The recording's exemplary, and the price tempting - sufficient to demolish your last excuse not to buy.

Peter J Lawson

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