...Manze allows the music to breathe, to come to life in a way you rarely hear in...
John Armstrong 2002-11-20
'Masterpieces in miniature form' says the sleeve note blurb: 'unexpected from a composer famed for his grand oratorios and dazzling operas'. Funny, I've known some of these Handel Sonatas for a while and never thought of them as masterpieces. Then there's the issue of authenticity, and despite recent research we don't know which ones Handel definitely didn't write...and it's almost certain some of these sonatas aren't his. Some may not even have been intended for the violin at all!
Those kinds of niggles gnaw away at you while you're listening, and it's hard to give the pieces a fair hearing - I'm sure their reputation suffers as a result. I'm delighted to report that for the first time I've sat and listened to these sonatas without a care in the world about their origins.
Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr's partnership is so well-honed now, so persuasive after their years of performance on record and in concert, that any doubts about the quality of the music are swept away. If you've heard their Bach, or perhaps the earlier works by Biber, Schmelzer et al, you'll know the improvisatory skills this pair bring to their interpretations...and it's no different here. Some listeners will think it's over the top, but Manze and Egarr's interpretative licence allows the music to breathe, to come to life in a way you rarely hear in Handel's Sonatas.
So, the dubious sonatas stand proud, despite their provenance. The genuine articles - probably five of them - really do feel like masterpieces, and there's an infectious joy underpinning the whole exercise that makes any residual doubts seem downright churlish.
Handel Sonatas dull? Uninspiring? Not by Handel at all? Who cares, come on in, the water's lovely!
Andrew McGregor - presenter of CD Review on Radio 3