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Handel Recorder Sonatas - BBC Music Magazine


05 July 2004
BBC Music Magazine
George Pratt
5 Stars

These sonatas, all-too-familiar staple of amateur recorder players, are transformed almost beyond recognition by this heaven-sent duo. Significantly, they play from facsimiles of Handel's autograph, and the performances thus reflect a spontaneity free from editorial interference. This shows most clearly in their ornamentation, doubtless partly prepared, and restrained enough never to obscure Handel's initial intentions, yet its seemingly extempore exuberance is a constant surprise and delight. Nor are they distracted by cello/gamba reinforcement, so their ensemble is intensely focused - every nuance generates a matching response. Richard Egarr uses a harpsichord for three sonatas (with a bonus 'Harmonious Blacksmith' Suite halfway through the programme). His command of tone and texture is astonishing - sweeps of sustained sound, dazzling virtuosity, quasi-fortepiano simplicity. On the chamber organ, his distinctive off-the-keys touch creates a remarkable transparency through which the recorder can speak freely. The converted church of York's National Centre for Early Music makes an ideal recording venue.

Pamela Thorby's tone is silvery, alert and superbly recorded. Her intonation is impeccable despite the familiar recorder-players' hazard of volume influencing pitch, while compromise harpsichord-tuning adds zest to the distant key of B major during the Suite. In all, I can't for the life of me imagine how this glorious recording could be bettered.


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