The Strad issue
Little-known composers come to life on a disc of English trio sonatas
Ravenscroft, Handel, Avison, Boyce, Arne, Abel & Erskine
This latest addition to London Baroque’s growing discography of English and European trio sonatas is a survey of both a range of composers known mostly by name but little else, and of the transmutation of Baroque into Classical style. Mostly the composers are English, apart from the Scottish Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kelly and, of course, Handel – or Händel as he appears in the booklet.
The opening work on the disc, Ravenscroft’s G major Sonata op.3 no.1 of 1695 technically belongs to the wrong century, but provides a good historical starting point, and the crisp playing and clear textures of the ensemble set the standard for what is to come. The opening Larghetto of Handel’s op.2 no.5 unfolds with perfect pacing, sure but unhurried. In the following Allegro the players are in full swing, the focus constantly changing between instruments (fiddles are outside right and left in the warm-tinged sound-scape), phrasing easy and natural, all despatched with delightful dexterity, as cellist Charles Medlam scurries around underneath. Severe Avison is followed by jolly Boyce, with a high spirited fugue to end. Arne is rich and warm. With Abel and Erskine the galant style is clearly emerging, and London Baroque shapes their musical paragraphs with elegance and fluent phrasing.