As Andrew Manze remarks in the liner note for this album, the sonata was perhaps "but a toy theatre in Handel's world of architectural splendours." Indeed, the eight sonatas, with the addition of two independent movements, provide an insight into a world far removed from the imposing, monumental Handelian works known to many listeners. But these works are by no means a lesser manifestation of the composer's genius.
“[These suites] have rarely been recorded or promoted by harpsichordists during the most recent revival of interest in ‘early music.’” I realize that Richard Egarr is entitled to his own opinions—his liner notes on an earlier release, for example, likened the humor in Purcell’s harpsichord music to that of the wonderful old 1950s BBC comedy The Goon Show —but he’s not entitled to his own facts. Christopher Brodersen pointed out in a 2011 review of these works featuring Laurence Cummings ( Fanfare 34:5) that ArkivMusic listed nine complete sets played on the harpsichord, with several others on the piano. I find some of the suites have considerably more recordings than that, in 2014: 26 for the Suite in A Major, 28 for the Suite in D Minor, 25 for the Suite in E Minor, 47 for the Suite in E Major. If such numbers reflect rare recordings, I have to wonder what Egarr would consider a moderate number, let alone a frequent one.
The 18th century saw an explosion of symphonies (over 18,000 composed in just 60 years, by one estimate). ‘Birth of the Symphony: Handel to Haydn' surveys some of the diverse works which were central to the genre as we know it today. The recording begins with Handel's Sinfonia from Saul, an example of the oratorio sinfonia which supplied models for the early symphony's scoring. Works from the avant-garde Mannheim composers Stamitz and Richter demonstrate the new sonic possibilities of the form, with which Mozart also engages in his very first attempt at the symphony. The recording ends with an example of a mature classical symphony, Haydn's 'La passione'.
Let's not waste time: get this for soprano Lucy Crowe's voice, for her performance of "What passion cannot Music raise", for her "The soft complaining flute"–and don't forget the glorious "But oh! What art can teach". Okay–just get this for the magnificent Crowe, whose golden, ringing tone and impeccable, uninhibited technique sets Handel's arias ablaze in vibrant, scintillating glory, relegating any recorded competition to second-class status. (Listen to that long-held, stratospheric note in the final chorus, on the words "The trumpet shall be heard on high"–on high, indeed; it seems like Crowe could have sustained it forever!) To sing Handel requires technical ease and comfort, range and unreserved explicatory ability–and in this, and in her complete habitation of the world of Handelian style Lucy Crowe is unsurpassed.
Remastered from the original LP recording, this performance is now available on CD.
Leclair was one of the best violinists of his times. The story is told that he had to compete in a musical duel with Locatelli in Kassel - then a most highly popular form of musical entertainment. The chronicler describes his "devilish" playing, contrasting it with the "angelic" style of his Italian rival. His trio sonatas suggest familiarity with the Italian school but also draw on entirely independent French traditions and shine with ingenious inventions and harmonic refinements.
Monica Huggett and her ensemble Sonnerie scored a hit on Avie with their recording of Handel's Trio Sonatas, Op. 2. They continue their traversal of Handel's chamber works with the Organ Concertos, Op. 4, featuring soloist Matthew Halls, a brilliant young soloist who spins out Handel's endlessly tuneful works with an improvisatory flair that the composer - himself a virtuoso organist - would surely have approved of.
Andrew Manze has been called "the Grappelli of the Baroque violin" because of the improvisatory liveliness of his approach; however, he can just as easily change personalities. Sometimes he pads along with sinewy grace like a panther ready to spring (the Preludio to BWV 1023, for example), sometimes he goes for a much more relaxed cantabile line, and sometimes he plays with a sparkling and infectious sense of fun (Presto, BWV 1021).