Monday, 14 April 2008

Handel at Home

On Friday, the London Handel Festival migrated from its usual venue (St. George's Church, Hanover Square) to the Wigmore Hall for a concert entitled Handel at Home given by the London Handel Players. Flautist Rachel Brown, a string quartet led by Adrian Butterfield with Laurence Cummings on harpsichord, played a programme of Handel's chamber music and music arranged for chamber forces. The programme included the Flute concerto in G minor, HWV 287 (originally thought to have been an oboe concerto), the Violin sonata in D major, two trio sonatas and a selection of arrangements of arias from Solomon, Semele and Alcina.

The arias were all based on the arrangements published by Walsh during Handel's lifetime, but Brown had made adjustments to these adding extra parts and details from other, later arrangements. Of course, Handel's large scale pieces were not far away in the other items in the programme. The fugue theme in the 2nd movement of the Violin sonata was borrowed from Solomon, the first 3 movements of trio sonata Opus 2, No. 3, are related to the overture to Esther and the trio sonata Opus 5, no. 4 includes a Passacaille which was originally intended for Radamisto.

This was an evening of charming and relaxed music making; the players are obviously all familiar with each other and their interplay was natural and musical. Perhaps the only problem was that the aria arrangements did not quite work as the centre piece of the programme. The transcriptions seemed to be only 2nd best, you longed for the real thing.

The audience seemed to be mainly composed of London Handel Festival regulars, all knowledgeable, they responded with delight to the programme. A response that was rather too audible in the case of my neighbours, who laughed audibly at various points in the proceedings, interrupting the flow of the music for me.

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