The trio sonata was
a very popular genre in the early 18th
century. In particular amateurs - whose
technical skills were considerable -
were very keen to lay their hands on
any publication with this kind of music.
Publishers took advantage of it by trying
to publish as many collections of trio
sonatas as possible. In the liner notes
of this disc Wiebke Thormählen
gives a striking illustration of how
far publishers were willing to go in
this respect. The London publisher Walsh
printed the trio sonatas opus 2 under
the name of the Amsterdam publisher
Roger, and made sure the publication
was riddled with errors in order to
infuriate Handel in such a way that
he was only too happy to allow Walsh
to publish an 'authorised' edition.
Another way to boost
sales was to mention a variety of instruments
on which the sonatas could be played.
Therefore the fact that the Walsh edition
refers to oboes and recorders, alongside
violins, on the title page doesn't necessarily
reflect the wishes of the composer.
But, in general, composers
in the 18th century were quite flexible
as far as the scoring of their chamber
music was concerned. So there is no
reason to object to a performance with
other instruments than those which the
composer in all likelihood had in mind
when he wrote them.
In the case of the
trio sonatas op. 2 by Handel it is only
the Sonata I which seems to have been
written specifically for transverse
flute and violin by Handel, considering
the fact that in the partbooks of all
prints it is designated for that combination.
It is performed this way on this disc,
whereas all other sonatas are performed
with two violins.
Since no autographs
of these sonatas have survived it is
impossible to decide when they have
been composed. It seems, however, that
five of them date from the years 1717/1718.
Only the first sonata goes back to Handel's
youth in Germany and dates perhaps from
Over the years I have
often been disappointed about the interpretation
of baroque music by musicians and ensembles
of the younger generations. The problems
are often the same: too little differentiation
within a piece, either between sections
or movements, an equal treatment of
all notes, a lack of dynamic contrast.
This recording by Sonnerie
demonstrates how to play baroque music.
This is an extraordinary engrossing
interpretation. Or perhaps I should
say: the musicians tell an engrossing
story. They constantly keep the listener
on his toes. The slow movements are
very expressive, with a strong interaction
between the players. The fast movements
are really exciting and dramatic, with
basso continuo players who push the
ensemble forward. There is a lot of
differentiation in dynamics and articulation
here as well. The ornamentation is always
tasteful and well played, with the right
amount of variety.
If one has listened
to a number of recordings with baroque
chamber music which are rather rigid
and inflexible, this disc is like a
breath of fresh air.
I can only strongly
recommend this excellent performance
of some of Handel's greatest chamber
Johan van Veen