HANDEL Sonatas op 1: No. 1 in e;2 No. 2 in g;3 No. 3 in A;1 No. 4 in a;3 No. 5 in G;2 No. 6 in g;4 No. 7 in C;3 No. 8 in c;4 No. 9 in b;Read more class="SUPER12">2 No. 10 in g;1 No. 11 in F;3 No. 12 in F;1 No. 14 in A;1 No. 15 in E;1 in F, “Hautb. Solo del Sr. Hendel”4 • Richard Egarr (hpd); Pavlo Beznosiuk (vn);1 Rachel Brown (fl,2 rcr3); Frank de Bruine (ob);4 (period instruments) • HARMONIA MUNDI 907465 (2 CDs: 147:29)
The group of 12 sonatas published as Handel’s op. 1 gives rise to a large number of questions which have puzzled musicologists and to which no satisfactory answer can be given. The set was first published in Amsterdam by Jeanne Roger sometime before 1722, at which date the Roger firm ceased to exist. In 1734, the set was republished in London by John Walsh, Handel’s publisher, using the same engraving plates as the Roger set. It appears that the Roger edition was actually published by Walsh before he became Handel’s official publisher and was an effort to circumvent the royal privilege granted to Handel for sole publication of his music from 1720 to 1734. Walsh’s edition differs from the Roger edition in that there are differences in some movements and, more importantly, sonatas 10 and 12 are completely different in the two editions. There are also differences between the printed versions and the surviving autographs of some of the works. Modern scholars have disputed the authenticity of sonatas 10 and 12 from both publications.
A further difficulty concerns correct instrumentation. Both editions contain four recorder sonatas, three flute sonatas, three violin sonatas, and two oboe sonatas. However, one of the oboe sonatas contains passages in two places that descend below the lowest notes of the oboe, and this sonata has been recorded instead as a violin sonata. In addition, Roger’s edition described the works as sonatas with basso continuo, while the Walsh edition proclaims they are “SOLOS For a GERMAN FLUTE a HOBOY or VIOLIN With a Thorough Bass for the HARPSICHORD or BASS VIOLIN.”
In this recording, Richard Egarr and three other members of the Academy of Ancient Music perform all 12 sonatas of the Walsh edition as solos with harpsichord accompaniment. Egarr claims they are the first to record them in this way. This statement is puzzling and is only true if he is referring to a complete recording of the entire opus. There are available one-disc recordings of the violin sonatas and the wind sonatas with this instrumentation. In addition to the 12 sonatas from Walsh’s edition, Egarr gives us sonatas 10 and 12 from the Roger edition and an oboe edition of the fifth sonata (originally for flute) taken from a non-Handel manuscript.
The Academy of Ancient Music is one of the best and oldest of period-instrument groups, so it should come as no surprise that their performances are excellent in every way. The music is not rushed but is given room to make its effect. The performers tease the rhythm so that the performance never sounds rigid or mechanical. Ornaments are applied, especially in slow movements, but in faster ones as well.
For the sake of contrast, I compared these performances with the recordings by L’Ecole d’Orphée of Handel’s “complete” chamber music. The first thing that strikes the listener is the difference in sound when the accompaniment uses cello and harpsichord, as L’Ecole d’Orphée does, rather than harpsichord alone. Egarr’s performances have a much brighter sound because of the absence of the cello. As Egarr remarks, in his performances the harpsichordist is challenged to produce as much color as possible, and Egarr succeeds brilliantly here. Egarr’s performances are also slower than L’Ecole d’Orphée’s, differing by as little as 11 seconds and as much as 2:22. For the 10 works they both record, the total difference in time is 10:09. Egarr does not sound slow, nor does L’Ecole d’Orphée sound rushed. They can perhaps be taken to represent acceptable ranges in tempo in these works. The time differences are not caused by differences in what is recorded; both ensembles perform all repeats.
L’Ecole d’Orphée does not record the violin sonatas 10 and 12 from either set, HWV 368, 370, 372, and 373, which modern scholars consider to be of doubtful authenticity. Egarr records the problem oboe sonata, HWV 364a, on the oboe, adjusting the line as necessary; L’Ecole d’Orphée performs it as a violin sonata.
For its outstanding performances and its different approach to the continuo, this recording deserves a place in the collection of every lover of Handel’s music and of Baroque chamber music in general.
Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in F major, HWV 370/Op. 1 no 12by George Frideric Handel Performer:
Pavlo Beznosiuk (Violin),
Richard Egarr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque Written: London, England Length: 15 Minutes 17 Secs. Notes: The attribution of this work to Handel is doubtful. Composition written: London, England (Circa 1726 - Circa 1732).