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Handel Recorder Sonatas
Ensemble Fitzwilliam
Jean-Pierre NICOLAS, Michèle Dévérité, Bruno Cocset & Pascal Monteilhet

Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT 03201 [2002 Versailles, TT:68 mins] UK distributor: RSK Entertainment

Familiar music (some of it re-used by Handel elsewhere) but re-thought in depth by Ensemble Fitzwilliam in the light of modern scholarship and consideration of historical practice; nothing dry or academic, these are performances of charm and vitality.

Jean-Pierre Nicolas has an always smooth and mellow tone, and incorporates embellishments with admirable naturalness. These interpretations take note of the role of the continuo to intensify the musical discourse, 'much more than simple accompaniment'. They are treated here by ringing the changes upon harpsichord and organ, cello, bass violin & theorbo, making it a CD which can be played through pleasurably without any feeling of dogged routine, which can happen with intégrale recordings of major oeuvres. Some of the fast movements are positively frenetic and hugely enjoyable, with a competitive feel and the cello taking centre stage.

Recording quality can be taken for granted with Zig-Zag Territoires, as also comprehensive back-up notes and illustrations by their resident artist Anne Peultier, whose contribution helps to make each release a collectable work of art. Unreservedly recommended for civilised entertainment.

See also my review of Sciarrino's Stories of Other Stories on Zig-Zag

© Peter Grahame Woolf