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A new account of Handel’s Sonatas Op. 5, perhaps his most important chamber music work, performed with their usual drive and intensity by the renowned and award-winning Al Ayre Espanol conducted by Eduardo Lopez Banzo.
During his stay in Rome, Handel participated in the musical evenings hosted by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni and Prince Francesco Ruspoli, where he would have met Corelli, who had established the defining features of the sonata da chiesa. So it’s not surprising that Handel’s six early Trio Sonatas Op. 2 follow strictly the four-movement structure of Corelli’s sonatas (slow-quick-slowquick). On the other hand, the Op. 5 set (HWV 396-402) shows a more mature and personal approach to this formal pattern, adding a fifth movement in all the sonatas and a sixth movement in two of them (Nos. 3 and 5).
As a result, these sonatas are, in reality, suites in five or six movements, whose last section is always a dance-piece in the French style (gavotte, minuet or bourrée). The sequence of contrasting movements that characterize Op. 5 demonstrates a curious mix of styles and techniques, as well as the juxtaposition of distinctive dramatic characteristics, so that these seven sonatas appear to resemble seven scenes of a wordless opera, combining a variety of feelings.
Besides its innovative structure, the most remarkable characteristic of this set lies is that it barely contains original music at all. Most of it is composed from pre-existing material taken from Handel’s own compositions, which makes it an example of a habit popular among opera composers, the pasticcio - an intelligent way of refreshing his musical thinking with subtle transformations.
Other Challenge Classics recordings by Al Ayre Espanol and Eduardo Lopez Banzo are a 2-disc selection of Handel’s Op. 6 Grand Concertos (CC72548) and sacred cantatas by José de Nebra (CC72509).
George Frideric Handel: Sonata Op. 5 No. 1 in A Major, HWV 396
George Frideric Handel: Sonata Op. 5 No. 2 in D Major, HWV 397
George Frideric Handel: Sonata Op. 5 No. 3 in E Minor, HWV 398
George Frideric Handel: Sonata Op. 5 No. 4 in G Major, HWV 399
A tempo ordinario. Allegro non presto
George Frideric Handel: Sonata Op. 5 No. 5 in G Minor, HWV 400
Come alla breve
A tempo giusto
George Frideric Handel: Sonata Op. 5 No. 6 in F Major, HWV 401
George Frideric Handel: SSonata Op. 5 No. 6 in F Major, HWV 401: Menuet
SSonata Op. 5 No. 6 in F Major, HWV 401: Menuet
George Frideric Handel: Sonata Op. 5 No. 7 in B-Flat Major, HWV 402
Allegro, ma non presto
“Al Ayre Espanol never shirk from the chance to exaggerate - even when it undermines good works they do elsewhere...With such a distinguished discography, maybe there is room for Al Ayre Espanol's mercurial alternative, which is never boring but seldom endearing.”