Trio Sonatas, Opus 2
~ HWV 386-91 ~

AVIE Records AV0033
1 CD
full price
Recorded in 2002.
Released in 2003.

Wilbert Hazelet (traverso)

Sonnerie: (on period instruments)
- Monica Huggett (violin)
- Emilia Benjamin (violin)
- Joseph Crouch (violoncello)
- Matthew Halls (harpsichord/organ)




The trio sonatas that form Handel’s Opus 2 were not composed with the intent to publish them as a coherent volume of work. Indeed, only Handel’s Opus 6 concerti grossi can be said to have been composed specifically as a unit of pieces with its publication clearly in mind. Even Opus 4 and Opus 7 were both compiled from organ concertos Handel had composed for different oratorios across a number of years. Walsh originally published six sonatas under the title ‘Opus 2’ as a fake edition by Roger of Amsterdam sometime before 1733, when he eventually published an honest edition. Little is known about the origin of the sonatas included in the collection, although Charles Jennens noted that Sonata No.2 in G major was composed when Handel was 14. Such information was presumably drawn from Handel himself, but perhaps Handel’s memory was not as precise as we would desire. The remaining five sonatas all relate in some way to other music Handel composed for Cannons between 1717 and 1718, although we cannot be very conclusive about exactly when or where they were originally composed.

There have been several recordings of Opus 2 on period instruments, most notably by London Baroque (Harmonia Mundi) and L’Ecole d’Orphée (CRD, reissued on Brilliant Classics). London Baroque’s performances are technically dazzling, but cool and detached from the music’s rhetorical and sentimental potential. L’Ecole d’Orphée, featuring the finest players of the booming English early music movement of the 1980s, recorded all of Handel’s chamber music to the highest standard, and their work remains essential. Nevertheless, Sonnerie’s vibrant new recording of Opus 2, their debut on the Avie label, has revealed these sonatas afresh. Violinist Monica Huggett is a musician who is both incisive and insightful, and her playing is delightful whether it is animated or reflective. The other members of Sonnerie, several of whom are comparably young and have recently joined the group, are comparably skilled at making the music come alive. Furthermore, that life in the music is comprehensive and explores different moods and emotions with compelling eloquence. Sometimes well-intentioned performers of Handel’s chamber music can sound worthy and skilled, but as if they are disinterested in communicating with the listener. The members of Sonnerie sound as if they are actually enjoying themselves, and their manifest pleasure in the music is infectious.

© David Vickers - February 2004

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