Erik Bosgraaf

Handel: The Recorder Sonatas

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Dutch recorder player Erik Bosgraaf is one of a group of Young Turks giving fresh attention to the Baroque recorder repertory, with often spectacular results. Here he turns to Handel's sonatas for recorder and harpsichord, not, as he argues convincingly in his booklet notes, recorder and continuo. For one thing, printings of the time specified only the two instruments. And for another, there's evidence that Handel used some of these works as teaching pieces, which would have placed the composer himself at the harpsichord. The keyboard realizations here are unusually vigorous and ornate, and a cello or gamba would have crowded them. The keyboard is almost an equal partner with the recorder. In this respect and in others, this album represents an excellent imaginative reconstruction of what these sonatas might actually have sounded like in Handel's time, based on the contexts in which they might have been used. Bosgraaf presents several possibilities, and the styles aren't totally consistent from one sonata to another, which is all to the good from the listener's viewpoint. The harpsichord parts, in addition to being complex in general, are realized in several different ways, with solid or broken chords, melodic material in the right hand or not, and so forth. As for Bosgraaf himself, he points in the notes to the recorder's use as a way of reproducing opera arias at home. He treats the slow movements almost as opera arias, with limpid melody at the beginning exploding into showers of ornaments as the material is repeated and developed. The outer movements have a lot of ornaments as well, which, when put together with the very active harpsichord of Francesco Corti, can result in a dense texture indeed. A piece like the Furioso movement of the Recorder Sonata in B minor, HWV 367a, turns into quite a compelling virtuoso duo, and all the fast movements (several of which will be familiar to recorder amateurs from their presence in anthologies of arrangments) are crisp and quick. Specialists may find a detail or two to debate in Bosgraaf's readings, but for the general listener this is a disc that captures the virtuoso aspect of these sonatas as few others have done.

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