Handel's "nine German arias" (he wrote other arias in German, but this is a discrete group) were written in the mid-1720s, long after the composer left his native Germany for Italy and then booming Great Britain. It is not known why he should have written music in German at that late date, and the pieces have a quietly contented tone that sets them somewhat apart from almost everything else in Handel's oeuvre. The texts are by Hamburg poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes, whose so-called Brockes-Passion had already been set by Handel a decade earlier. They are religious but not exactly sacred -- spiritual in a personal way, perhaps, with a good deal of nature imagery that is only lightly reflected in the music. Instead Handel sticks to the da capo aria pattern, forging a gentle language for the soprano soloist that evokes the outlines of the Italian operatic aria but tones the whole thing down to chamber dimensions. The voice of British soprano and Handel specialist Carolyn Sampson is ideal for this music, and the accompaniment of the small King's Consort (here consisting merely of violin and continuo) is both modest and sensitive to the small details of her singing. The nine arias are interspersed with a trio of sonatas for oboe and continuo -- a logical choice, and rendered in sharp performances by oboist Alexandra Bellamy. Her Baroque oboe is a tart-toned instrument indeed; however, after several minutes of Sampson's smooth, long tones, the oboe will definitely make you sit up and take notice. Texts are in German and English only, although the booklet essay also appears in French. In all this disc offers strong readings of some sparsely recorded corners of Handel's output.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Oboe Sonata in F major, HWV 363a|
|Oboe Sonata in B flat major (Fitzwilliam), HWV 357|
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