Handel: German Arias & Trio Sonatas

Gillian Keith soprano, Florilegium
78:00
Channel Classics CCS35117
HWV202-210, 386b, 398 + Concerto a Quattro in d

Handel set nine of Brockes’s German aria texts to music for soprano, unspecified instrument and continuo; for their recording, Florilegium choose flute (Ashley Solomon) and violin (Bojan Cicic) supported by cello and continuo. They are divided here into three groups of three, each preceded by an instrumental piece (op. 5/3 in E minor, op. 2/1 in B minor and the HWV-less Concerto a Quattro in D minor with obbligato cello). I regret to say that, while the instrumental playing is fine and much of the singing similarly pleasant, there are things that I found rather disagreeable, primary amongst them Gillian Keith’s tendency (especially in the upper reaches of her voice and even more so in some of the, to my ears at least, unexpectedly awkward decorations and cadenzas) to be rather shrill. I am puzzled why “one of Britain’s most outstanding period instrumental ensembles” would seriously suggest that the unspecified obbligato instrument would change for the B section of a Da Capo aria; I had a ridiculous image in my mind of a be-wigged flautist bowing deeply as his violin-playing colleague took over, and then the reverse occurring a few moments later. If there is a technical reason that the middle part of an aria doesn’t particularly suit the flute, then the most likely scenario is that Handel didn’t ever imagine it being played on that instrument at all. In fact, this resonated with something I’ve long believed of the many incarnations of Florilegium, namely their apparent lack of curiosity for new repertoire; I understand that attracting a concert audience relies on strategic planning – far more people will come to a concert of Handel than a hotchpotch of even fabulous pieces by lesser-known composers, but when you have done all the hard work and established an international reputation, CD recordings are surely the way to introduce your loyal fan base to the wealth of first-rate music written for your line-up – how about some Quantz? Or Janitsch – his quartets are increasingly well known, but few people have even looked at his trios…

Brian Clark

1 Comments

  1. Dave B= Melanti March 14, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Right, let’s start in 1997… soprano Ann Monoyios with the Berliner Barock-Compagney (Capriccio 10767) also tackled the Nine German Arias by B.H.Brockes, which is perfectly performed and divided-up on the CD with suitable “fillers” (two Sonatas HWV 386a and 399); there must by now be at least a good handful of recordings tackling these works?? In the same year, we find a fascinating and fine CD on Vanguard Classics (99088) featuring Jed Wentz and Musica ad Rhenum: “The unknown Handel”, including two versions of HWV399, alongside HWV 404, 288, 287, 390b AND this very D-minor Concerto a Quattro! Although classified in the private music library of Duke of Schoenborn in Wiesentheid as by Handel (and the opening movement has similarities with this composer’s G-minor Oboe Concerto), some of us know this piece as TWV43:d3 which has a Darmstadt source attributed to Telemann (D-DS mus. ms. 1042/45). This work like TWV43: D6, also ascribed to Handel, has a Dresden Source for Telemann (D-Dl Mus. 2393-Q-29). In 2000 the ensemble Musica Solare recorded both on CD with still divergent attribution. The DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) in Hamburg gives these works over to Telemann; Magdeburg has reservations about this? These musicological contentions aside, one can definitely question some of the choices Florilegium make regarding material to perform and record! Why haven’t they selected several suitable cantatas from Telemann’s Harmonischer Gottesdienst  or the Fortsetzung; or some splendid Fasch, a sprinkling of Graupner, even selected Quantz and others? This Handel takes me back to 1997! Where they’ll find tough opposition in musical excellence! Didn’t Dorothea Roeschmann do these Arias too?

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