Over-cautious accounts of English Baroque sonatas
William Croft’s three violin sonatas combine Italian and English idioms from the late 17th-century and are among the first sonatas for a single instrument and continuo to be published by an Englishman. Baroque violinist Hazel Brooks’s accounts of them are thoroughly accomplished and unfailingly musical if, for my taste, also generally cautious and less vital than is desirable in terms of dramatic shape and rhythmic life. Sampling the jig-like finales, the expressive ground-bass Largo of the A major Sonata, and the chromatic Adagio at the end of the central movement of the G minor Sonata will bear this out. Despite her somewhat clinical and calculated approach, she does show flair and individuality in her selective introduction of vibrato and extempore ornamentation, even if the latter often comes across too metrically, as in the opening Adagio of the G minor Sonata.
Harpsichordist David Pollock emerges as the stronger personality, revelling in the sonatas’ unusually elaborate bass parts and accompanying with insight and style. He also shines in the Gavotta of an anonymous seven-movement Violin Sonata in D minor (c.1720) and contributes polished and strongly characterised accounts of three of Croft’s solo keyboard suites. The recording combines immediacy, firmly focused yet transparent textures, and well-managed balance.