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Barocking Together
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonata in b minor for flute and continuo (Op.1/9), HWV367b (1712-21) [
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata in e minor for flute and continuo, BWV1034 91717-24) [
Sonata in A for flute and harpsichord, BWV1032 (1717-23, rev. c.1736) [12:13]
Sonata in E for flute and continuo, BWV1035 (1741-7) [11:17]
Sonata in E-flat for flute and harpsichord BWV1031 (1730-3?) [10:19]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sonata in F for flute and continuo, TWV41:F4 (from der getreue Music-meister, 1728-9) [
Sharon Bezaly (flute); Members of London Baroque: Terence Charleston (harpsichord); Charles Medlam (bass viol)
rec. December, 2006 (Handel, BWV1032 and 1034) and August, 2007 (BWV1031 and 1035, Telemann), The Warehouse, London. DDD
BIS BISCD1689 [67:46] 


Experience Classicsonline

Like many regular listeners to BBC Radio 3, I’ve followed the progress of Sharon Bezaly with interest.  One of the BBC’s Young Artists, she has demonstrated great ability and versatility in her wide-ranging broadcasts and recordings, and this new CD is no exception.  With the support of two members of London Baroque and BIS on the label to guarantee the recording quality, this new CD is virtually self-recommending, unless you cannot abide the sound of the flute – in which case you won’t be reading this review.

There are several highly recommended versions of the Handel flute sonatas, but Bezaly can hold her head high even in such exalted company as the ASMF Chamber Ensemble on modern instruments in the complete wind sonatas (Philips Duo 4465632) or Linda Besnosiuk, etc. (CDA67278) or Marion Verbruggen (recorder and flute) et al on period instruments (HMU90 7151).  Her tempi here are well judged: very similar to – if anything, slightly faster than – those of Verbruggen and those of Il Vero Modo on the Thorofon recording to which I refer below. 

Prospective purchasers are most likely to be attracted by the four Bach sonatas.  They won’t be disappointed, except perhaps by the fact that BIS haven’t included all six sonatas; though I realise that those who do so mostly run to two CDs, as in the case of Stephen Preston’s CRD recording (CRD3314/5), they should have been able to accommodate all six comfortably, even leaving enough space for the short Telemann work as filler.  Bezaly’s tempi are consistently faster – sometimes much faster – than Preston’s, but the playing never sounds remotely breakneck.  Preston undercuts Bezaly just once in the opening movement of BWV1032 (tr.12), by just 9 seconds. 

The final allegro of BWV1031 (tr.21) is one movement where, on paper, Bezaly’s 4:35 against Preston’s 5:06 seems highly discrepant, yet even here there is no hint of undue haste.  The opening and closing movements of BWV1034 (tr.8 and tr.11) offer another extreme contrast of tempo: 2:38 and 4:26 against Preston’s 3:08 and 5:11, yet here, too, Bezaly and her supporters seem to have it just about right. 

BWV1034/i is marked adagio, ma non tanto, and if the BIS performers concentrate on the forward movement more than Preston, they are surely right to stress the ma non tanto element of the indication.  Preston does sound a little sluggish and even doleful by comparison – try the opening 60 seconds of his version here.  The tempo in BWV1034/iv on this new recording sounds equally right; again, Preston sounds a little too slow when heard immediately afterwards: try the sample on the same web page. 

Those who wish to have Bezaly’s excellent accounts of the four sonatas here, yet also have a collection of all six, might wish to download Preston’s recordings from – by buying each CD for the absurdly low price of £4.80, £9.60 for the whole set, including the Partita, BWV1013, or by complementing the four sonatas on Bis with just the three tracks of BWV1030 for £2 and/or the four tracks of BWV1033 for just £1.60.  It’s not one of their 320k or lossless recordings, but most listeners will find the 192k sound perfectly acceptable. 

Otherwise, those requiring all six sonatas will find themselves catered for by William Bennett, George Malcolm and Michael Evans on super-budget ASV Resonance CDRSN3008.  The Archiv Galleria versions of BWV1020, 1030-2 and 1013, with Aurèle Nicolet and Karl Richter, available as a mid-price import on 427 113-2 are also most enjoyable, though Richter’s accompaniment now sounds a little four-square. 

The short Telemann sonata which ends the recording also receives an excellent performance.  If anything, Telemann was even more adept at writing for the flute or recorder than Bach or Handel – as witness the well-known Suite in a minor, TWV55:a2 – and this sonata is a good example of his style. 

With excellent recording and a very informative booklet of notes, this new CD is highly recommendable.  It’s almost impossible to imagine anything better. 

Criticisms?  Well, the title is a bit gash and, whereas BIS correctly give Handel’s name in the booklet as George Frideric Handel, the form of his name which he adopted when he settled in London, the front cover and rear insert list him as Georg Friedrich Händel.  It’s a trifling, pedantic complaint, but it does demonstrate that my critical faculties are still in order – I’m not recommending this CD for any other reason than its overall excellence. 

If you enjoy the one Handel work included here, you could also try the Thorofon CD of six sonatas for recorder and harpsichord which I recommended in May 2008 (CTH2540 – see review).  Bezaly plays the version which Walsh published as the flute sonata Op.1/9 (HWV367b), a work which also exists as HWV367a for recorder, in which form it is played on the Thorofon CD.  And for an inexpensive and very enjoyable account of Handel’s trio sonatas for oboe and violin, look no further than Convivium on Hyperion Helios CDH55280 – see review. 

I hardly know where to begin with recommendations for Telemann.  As good a place as any to look would be the very varied collection of Domestic Music performed by Collegium 90/Steven Standage on Chandos CHAN0525: a trio sonata for violins and continuo; a set of exercises for voice and continuo; a suite for flute, violin and continuo; a flute quartet and other pieces, all excellently performed – one of a series of excellent Telemann recordings made by these performers. 

For those wishing to start a Telemann collection on a low budget, the Naxos Best of Telemann, including the Suite in a minor, HWV55:a2, would be a good place to begin (8.556689).  Have a look, too, at my recent review of Telemann Wind Concertos Vol.2 on CPO 7772672, in which I refer to a number of other recommendable recordings. 

This new recording reminds us of the almost unfailingly high quality of BIS recordings and the range of repertoire which they encompass – as wide as that of Sharon Bezaly herself.  I may not be too enamoured of some of the Scandinavian avant-garde whom the label has championed, but I am deeply grateful for the range of excellent recordings of music which I love which has appeared on BIS, from the recordings of Bach orchestral music and cantatas with the Bach Collegium of Japan under Masaaki Suzuki, to the music of Sibelius.

Brian Wilson


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