Putting out a CD of Handel’s recorder sonatas might seem a slightly strange choice these days, as numerous versions are already available; but then, if musicians want to record music they’ve known and long enjoyed, who’s to argue? Featuring three Australians active as performers and teachers for over three decades, this disc opens with a twist: an intimate version of the Music for the Royal Fireworks , arranged in the 18th century (like much of Handel’s opera music) for treble instrument and basso continuo. It’s a pleasure to hear this piece in miniature, and quite entertaining if you’re familiar with the heartily orchestrated original!
The four recorder sonatas from Handel’s Opus 1, lovely pieces all, follow in their usual order, and there is much tasteful and cheery playing here. The perennial balance problems in the A minor sonata are solved by the removal of the bass viol from the mix, though that’s a bit of a pity because Handel’s bass lines are so robust, but that said, harpsichordist John O’Donnell whips through the feisty second movement with aplomb. The seasoned and well-knit ensemble playing of recorder player Ruth Wilkinson and her colleagues O’Donnell and gambist Miriam Morris is immediately evident, as is their affection for this music. The booklet notes are informative and the recorded sound is particularly beautiful; because of this, the session photo of the musicians with their tech team is a very nice touch.