London Handel Players

Handel at Home

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Arrangements of music for the home market were the digital downloads of the two centuries (and in some places more) prior to the invention of sound recordings. This statement is commonplace enough, but performances of such arrangements are still rare, and really imaginative reconstructions like this one are rarer still. The inspiration for this project appears to have come from Baroque flutist Rachel Brown, who supplanted arrangements by eighteenth century publisher John Walsh with further orchestration of her own. After an introductory Handel flute concerto (better known as the Oboe Concerto in G minor, HWV 287) come three mini-suites from an opera (Alcina), an oratorio (Solomon), and a hybrid of the two forms (Semele). Each suite consists of four or five items, including overtures (in two cases, once played by the whole six-person ensemble and once on a harpsichord) and instrumental dances as well as aria melodies, usually given to Brown's flute. The notes summarize the contents of each aria at about the level an audience member of the day would have been capable of, and in general the players bring their "Handel at Home" concept uniquely to life. Brown is an excellent Baroque flutist, and she accomplishes an intriguing exaggeration of normal instrumental phrasing -- she, and the other players, are playing as if they were enthusiastic music lovers in the grip of hot new tunes. The gentle sound of the ensemble as a whole is lovely for casual listening. Sample "O sleep" (track 15) from Semele for an impression of the very sweet sounds on this unusual album, which both uncovers a lost musical literature and manages the difficult trick of presenting a very professional performance that conveys an impression of amateur music-making.

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