This iconoclastic U.S. release of music from 18th century London, with its cover indication of the old instruments played by violinist Martin Davids and organist David Yearsley, seems to promise historical performances, but this is only partly true. The two musicians do use historical instruments, but the combination of violin and organ is unusual on the face of it, and some of its applications are even more so. What is actually involved is a fanciful take on music that would have been familiar to London audiences of the time, which was justified, as Yearsley puts it in his fine notes, by "the tradition of opportunistic adaptation Handel so brilliantly and unapologetically cultivated." This argument by itself is entirely reasonable; Handel and other composers of the era never hesitated to reduce, reuse, and recycle, and the organ, especially in small, peppy versions like the Neapolitan instrument played by Yearsley here, had its secular uses in a variety of instrumental music. The three Scarlatti sonatas heard here certainly work on the organ, and the various sonatas for violin and continuo, while a bit unusual on the organ, are fresh rather than odd, and the brooding, knotted Sonata No. 12 in D minor of Francesco Maria Veracini, from the set entitled Sonate accademiche, may even be enhanced by this treatment. Other works stretch the point a bit too far. The combination of violin and organ adds nothing to Handel's familiar aria "V'adoro pupille" (from Giulio Cesare) or Arne's Where the Bee Sucks, and it positively damages Purcell's Fantasy upon One Note, where the meantone tuning of the organ (the violin gets the "one note" in this arrangement) forces the instrument into some brutally out-of-tune chords as this chromatic work proceeds. This is nothing more than an academic exercise itself, but the program as a whole is briskly and engagingly played, and it's true that the general spirit would not have been unfamiliar to a Baroque composer. Recommended for those whose taste in Baroque performance runs to the offbeat. The sound, from a chapel at Cornell University in upstate New York, is unpleasantly brittle. Yearsley's notes are in English only.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Acis and Galatea|
|Sonata No. 12 in G minor|
|Sonata No. 12 in D minor|
|Sonata No. 7 in F major, HWV. 392|