Andrew Manze & Richard Egarr
Complete Violin Sonatas G.F. Handel
Harmonia Mundi (

cd cover At Skywalker Sound in late November of 1998, after turning in a stunning series of recorded sonatas by the flamboyant Italian composer Pandolfi, Manze & Egarr recorded this sparkling complete bunch of chamber works by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), astonishingly, the very next week. The difference betwixt the two is the material interpreted, which proves far less impetuous but reciprocally less tiring on the ear. Not released until almost three years later, the Handel sessions bear the same mark of easy virtuosity, subtly crafted volume modulations and dynamically open pacing. Handel's bonafide five sonatas and three others attributed to him are somewhat formulaic, typically in four movements, ranging on average seven to twelve minutes duration, with only two based in minor keys. Prepared from original sources, the baroque violin and harpsichord specialists have imbued these miniature concerti with as much prosaic drama as is probably possible. Manze often writes his own liner notes and here observes that the sonatas might constitute a kind of 'toy theatre' for Handel, in comparison to his more famously grand oratorios. Though minor key movements exist in all of them, adding flecks of tragedy, these sonatas convey mostly the sound of fair weather and glad circumstance. Enhanced by engineer Brad Michel's lively, accurate presentation, I can imagine ideally using any three of these sonatas per sitting, in restoring autumnal repose, or to create a private space somewhere beyond the reach of contemporary warfare. Yet, thanks to Manze & Egarr's genius, Handel's masterful handling of an idiom best described as 'wordless short story' will remain for many a listen. 76 minutes, this CD also includes the Andante in A minor and the Allegro in C Minor. - Steve Taylor

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