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George Frideric HANDEL (1685 - 1759)
Six Trio Sonatas, HWV 380-385
Ensemble Amalthée (Joris van den Hauwe (oboe); Caroline Chardonnet (violin); Godefroy Vujicic (cello); Olivier Chardonnet (organ))
rec. 2014, Doopsgezinde Church, Joure, Netherlands. DDD
ALIUD ACDBL085-2 SACD [58:23]

It was thought for many years that these trio sonatas were written by the 11-year-old Handel during his training in Halle under Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. The players and production team of this enjoyable Dutch disc appear to have swallowed this story whole, although recent scholarship tends to doubt the attribution to Handel, and to say that if the pieces are indeed his, they must have been composed seven years later. It was thought that they were written for two oboes, but the range and use of double-stopping in the second part indicates a violin – a competing version on Hyperion features the same instrumentation. They are all based on the slow-fast-slow-fast sonata da chiesa pattern.

The performances are given on instruments with a modern set-up, at modern pitch. They are stylistically aware, clearly influenced by period instrument practice and most agreeable. Whoever wrote the music, it is well worth preserving. The initial Adagio of each sonata has something of the mature Handel’s dignity; and in each case the second slow movement is also impressive. The faster movements are sprightly and delightful. Violin and oboe make for a piquant tonal contrast, the cellist is superb and the organist is nimble-fingered. There would have been room for another sonata on the CD, perhaps a genuine work by Handel.

Ensemble Amalthée, we are told in the notes, takes its name from Amalthea, the goat that rescued and nursed Zeus. The oboist – one of Belgium’s best-known musicians – and the violinist play in the Brussels Philharmonic, the cellist is based in Paris and the organist, whose relationship to the violinist is not stated, appears to be a free agent. The recordings are excellent and the presentation is attractive. The 1858 Van Dam organ of the Doopsgezinde Kerk in Aliud Records home town of Joure is used, the specification is listed and the registration used for each sonata is given. The church’s acoustic is very pleasant.
Tully Potter



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