HANDEL Suites and Trio Sonatas
We have the Philharmonie de Paris’s Musée de la Musique to thank for this thoughtful programme from Ensemble Amarillis, because while the original concept was to stick entirely to Handel’s trio sonatas – and Caromb-based recorder maker Bruno Reinhard had provided Héloïse Gaillard an alto copy after Handel’s famous recorder-making contemporary, Thomas Stanesby Jnr – the museum then gave the harpsichordist Violaine Cochard the opportunity to play an original late 18th-century instrument by the British firm Longman and Broderip. So suddenly all change, and the finished musical dish sees two trios plus two ‘Imaginary Suites’ plucked from Handel’s three collections of harpsichord suites; ‘imaginary’ because, while some movements have been left as solo harpsichord, others are performed as duos or trios with basso continuo. Plus, each suite’s final movement – one a chaconne and one an aria with variations – has been idiomatically arranged for trio with basso continuo by contemporary composer Erik Desimpelaere.
The first thing to hit your ears is how exceptionally bright and immediate the sound is. In fact some listeners may initially have preferred the sort of engineering which purposefully planes off some of the period instruments’ rougher edges, particularly with Alice Piérot’s violin (a copy by Marseille luthier Jérémy Chaud). For my part I like it very much; there’s an unashamed authenticity about it all which I find very attractive, and I think that even lovers of dulcet tones will quickly acclimatise and enjoy.
The overall balance is very nicely done too: recorder hugged just behind the violin; Cochard’s sparky harpsichord-playing equally shining out as one would expect; a subtler level from theorboist Florent Marie; and a healthy amount of Annabelle Luis’s beautiful cello (a copy after a 1777 instrument by the prolific French luthier Nicolas Augustin Chappuy).
There’s also real vitality and conviction across the disc, as you might expect from such a labour of love. Listen to the energy of the Trio Sonata HWV386’s final Allegro, for instance, as the violin and recorder dance around each other. All in all, great stuff.