~ HWV 362, 369, 365, 367a, 377, 360 ~
BIS is certainly one of the very finest independent labels. I was particularly impressed with their recent ECO-friendly repackaging of Emma Kirkbyís disc of Handelís ĎSacred Cantatasí, and I hope they repeat the experiment more often. Yet, apart from a couple of discs featuring Emma Kirkby and an admirable Messiah by Masaaki Suzuki, their Handel discography lags far behind their copious attention to Bach. At least their carefully prepared Handel recordings usually show that quality compensates for the lack of quantity.
BISís 30th anniversary celebrations have been a good excuse to reissue some of its best discs at mid-price, and this disc of recorder sonatas is especially good. Not only is the issue extremely well documented, with a rewarding essay by David Lasocki and information about the instruments being used, but also the performances themselves are delightful. There are quite a few alternative discs of Handelís ĎRecorderí sonatas on the market: the closest competition is Marion Verbruggenís recital (accompanied by Ton Koopman and Jaap ter Linden, on Harmonia Mundi). That disc is energetic, and each sonata is fine if you listen to it individually, but over the course of an hour, the overall impression is too spiky and abrasive.
As an entire recital worth hearing in one session, I much prefer Dan Laurinís softer and more affectionate treatment of the music. The accompaniment by Masaaki and Hidemi Suzuki demonstrates the sort of consummate musicianship one would expect from the pillars of Bach Collegium Japan. The recorded sound is bright yet never harsh, and a generous reverberation never threatens to muddle the intricate harpsichord and cello details. This is an appealing disc worth acquiring, especially if you donít already possess a recording of these sonatas.
© David Vickers - September 2003
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