Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonatas for wind
Barthold Kuijken (transverse flute) Peter van Heyghen (recorder) Marcel Ponseele (oboe) Wieland Kuijken (viola da gamba)
Robert Kohen, Kris Verhelst, Ewald Demeyere (harpsichord) Richte Van Der Meer (violoncello)
rec. 1991-99, Église St. Apollinaire, Bolland; Church of Sint Thomas Van Kantelberg, Male, Belgium. ACCENT ACC24308 [72:55 + 74:08]
This release is a compilation from titles which appeared on the Accent label in the 1990s, none of which have reached the pages of MusicWeb International in their original form. Nicely presented in a foldout package and with useful booklet notes in English, French and German, this is a handy reference for these works in an ‘authentic’ setting. That said, not all of the sonatas for transverse flute were originally intended for this instrument, and not all of the pieces have survived in autograph form and might be re-workings or adaptations from pieces for other instruments. Such attributes are hardly surprising and of little concern – melody instruments were pretty interchangeable for such pieces in the Baroque period, and as a flautist today I suspect I must have played all of them at one time or another without much regard for the published intentions.
Originally released on ACC10080 I’ve always admired Barthold Kuijken’s flute playing, and the transverse flute sonatas with harpsichord and viola da gamba are a delight from beginning to end. Set in a pleasant acoustic and superbly balanced, these are performances which make this set worth the asking price alone. Handel’s skill with a good tune and ability to bring out the virtuoso flair of his musicians shines through in every sonata. Some of these follow the Italianate sonata di chiesa form and others appear more as suites and include French dance forms, but they are all to be lapped up as a cat would a bowl of cream. I promise you won’t feel any ill effects as a result.
From ACC98126 Peter van Heyghen’s recording of the recorder sonatas is drier in acoustic and with only harpsichord accompaniment less juicy in terms of sonic richness. Handel did however spend considerable time notating these accompaniments as they were used for harmony lessons given by the composer to the children of the royal family in England, so we know we are hearing ‘the real thing’ as it were. The relatively equal nature of the parts, with plenty of virtuoso writing for the harpsichord, makes these works stand out, and with Handel you always know you are going to be in for a good time. Originally coupled with sonatas by Vivaldi on ACC99136 the remaining three oboe sonatas were recorded in the same location. The sessions fit well, the balance favouring the cello a little more, but the soft sound of the baroque oboe speaking nicely above the rolling harmonies.
As far as period instrument recordings go there are a few choices around for all of these works. Alan Davis’s recorder sonatas on Guild (review) are more sparkly in balance than Van Heyghen but Davis tends to push the notes around more in terms of wind speed, which can be unsettling. Lisa Beznosiuk’s flute sonata recording on Hyperion (review) is a good alternative to Kuijken, but more closely recorded in a smaller acoustic. I love her sound, and if you like being up close and personal with your players then this is a very fine release. For Handel on the oboe you might like to try Sarah Francis on the bargain Regis label (review). As ever it’s a case of swings and roundabouts, but if you seek a one-stop place for all of Handel’s sonatas for wind instruments then this Accent compilation will in no way disappoint.
Flute Sonata in E minor HWV 359b [7:14]
Flute Sonata in G major HWV 363b [8:06]
Flute Sonata in B minor HWV 367b [13:57]
Flute Sonata in D major HWV 378 [6:17]
Flute Sonata in A minor HWV 374 [11:29]
Flute Sonata in E minor HWV 375 [6:42]
Flute Sonata in B minor HWV 376 [7:08]
Flute Sonata in E minor HWV 379 [12:02]
Recorder Sonata in G minor HWV 360 [7:30]
Recorder Sonata in F major HWV 369 [6:38]
Recorder Sonata in D minor HWV 367a [13:58]
Recorder Sonata in B flat major HWV 377 [5:20]
Recorder Sonata in C major HWV 365 [10:34]
Recorder Sonata in A minor HWV 362 [9:53]
Oboe Sonata in C minor HWV 366 [6:21]
Oboe Sonata in B flat major HWV 357 [6:03]
Oboe Sonata in F major HWV 363a [7:50]