This attractive selection of Handel’s cantatas and trio sonatas makes a satisfying programme of some of Handel’s finest and most attractive music.
The Purcell Quartet is one of the finest baroque quartets today and their many recordings on Chandos have received excellent critical acclaim. They are joined on this album by several distinguished soloists.
Nearly all of Handel’s cantatas were composed during his years in Italy, mainly for concerts at the homes of his various patrons, where (as his first biographer put it) he was ’desired to furnish his quota’ of such pieces. They were popular in Rome, where opera was forbidden at the time. Most are written simply for voice and continuo but there are more than twenty, no doubt intended for larger-scale occasions, that call for additional instruments; both the cantatas recorded here come into that category. Tra le fiamme was composed around the spring of 1708 and, though a typical mixture of recitative and aria, it contains some exceptionally colourful instrumentation and is certainly operatic in style. Notte placida e cheta dates from the same year and is similarly full of imaginative touches, including one aria composed in a fugal style, the voice taking the role in the contrapuntal interplay with the two violins and the continuo group - a magical piece of writing. The trio sonatas here are a rich mixture of slow and fast movements, all of great character and all different, providing the perfect foil to the cantatas.