Thursday 19 March 2020

A Spanish tribute to Handel: L'Apothéose's delightful disc of chamber music on LBS

Handel trio sonatas, violin sonatas; L'Apothéose; LBS Classical
Handel trio sonatas, violin sonatas; L'Apothéose; IBS Classical
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 18 March 2020 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A delightful Handel tribute from a young Spanish ensemble

This delightful disc on the IBS label features the Spanish group, L'Apothéose (Laura Quesada, traverse flute, Victor Martinez, baroque violin, Carla Sanfelix, baroque cello, and Asis Marquez, harpsichord, plus Ramiro Morales, archlute and guitar) in a selection of Handel's chamber music, two of the Trio Sonatas, Op. 2, two of the Trio Sonatas, Op. 5 and two solo sonatas.

Handel's chamber music mainly dates from his period in England, and seems to have been produced for a purely functional purpose, for music evenings at patrons (some may have been written for Lord Burlington for Burlington House, or during Handel's period as composer in residence with the Duke of Chandos at Cannons) or for private concerts with his Royal pupils. He seems to have created these works by re-using pre-existing material so that one of the delights of listening to his chamber music is the discovery of familiar material in new circumstances.

The earliest English publications of his instrumental music, the Opus 1 solo sonatas, Opus 2 trio sonatas and Opus 3 concerti grossi were essential pirate editions produced by John Walsh without Handel's involvement or consent (copyright protection for composers was rather low at the time). But, at first, Handel does not seem to have understood the potential for publishing. Walsh's publications were aimed at the lucrative, burgeoning amateur market. But by Handel's Opus 5 trio sonatas the composer was fully involved, editing the works for publication.

On this disc we hear two works from each of the sets of trio sonatas, Opus 2 and Opus 5, played with flute and violin as the two melody instruments, plus a violin sonata and a second violin sonata arranged for flute by the ensemble (this latter, based on analysis of the manuscript paper, Handel's last chamber work). For continuo the group has cello, harpsichord, archlute and guitar to choose from, and they sensibly vary the line-up throughout the disc. By also interleaving the trio sonatas and the solo sonatas, they ensure a lovely variety of textures throughout the disc.

The group is Spanish, though its name comes from Couperin's L'Apothéose de Corelli, and perhaps there is something somewhat French in their approach to this chamber music, in the use if the flute and violin in combination or maybe the group's light-footed approach to rhythm, which I found very engaging.

They play the music fully as chamber music, the melody instruments never feel over spot-lit, and there is a lovely sense of collegiality and ensemble about the performances. You sense that the players are really enjoying themselves, so of course we do too.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) - Trio sonata in F major, Op.2 No.4 HWV 389
George Frideric Handel - Violin Sonata in D minor HWV 359a
George Frideric Handel - Trio sonata in D major, Op.5 No.2 HWV 397
George Frideric Handel - Violin Sonata in D major, HWV 371 (arranged for flute by the ensemble)
George Frideric Handel - Trio Sonata in B minor Op.2 No.1 HWV 386b
George Frideric Handel - Trio Sonata in A major Op.5 No.1 HWV 396
Recorded November 2018, Auditorio Manuel de Falla, Granada, Spain
IBS Classical LBS162019 1CD [58.55]

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