George Frideric Handel: Complete Violin Sonatas. Bojan Čičić, Baroque violin; Steven Devine, 1756 Kirckman harpsichord. © 2024 Delphian Records Ltd


Vitality and Freshness

GERALD FENECH is delighted by Bojan Čičić and Steven Devine's recording of Handel's violin sonatas

'... infectious warmth and extraordinary dexterity ...'


Georg Friederich Handel (1685-1759) certainly needs no introduction. One of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, he was born in Germany and he received his first training in Halle. He also worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712, where he spent the bulk of his career and became a British subject in 1727. He was influenced both by the middle-German polyphonic tradition and by composers of the Italian baroque. In turn, Handel's music forms one of the peaks of the 'high baroque' style, bringing Italian opera to its highest development, creating the genre of English oratorio and organ concerto and introducing a new style into English church music. Handel was also responsible for starting three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera.

In 1737 he had a physical breakdown and this collapse forced the composer to change tack. The transition was to English choral works and the results were staggering. Not only was this exciting genre enriched by some of the greatest oratorios ever written, but more people were drawn to it rather than to opera, as it addressed the middle classes. After the immortal Messiah (1742), he never turned to opera again. His orchestral music remains steadfastly popular and his four Coronation Anthems remain staple church music to this day. Zadok the Priest, in particular, has been performed at every British coronation since 1727. Almost blind, Handel died in 1759, a respected and rich man, and was given a state funeral at Westminster Abbey.

Handel's compositions include forty-two operas, twenty-five oratorios, more than a-hundred-and-twenty cantatas, trios and duets, numerous arias, odes and serenatas, eighteen concerti grossi, twelve organ concertos and solo and trio sonatas.

This fine Delphian disc focuses on, maybe, the least performed pieces of this huge output: the Violin Sonatas. Though better known as a virtuoso, as a young man Handel also trained as a violinist. His works for violin and harpsichord, says essayist Donald Burrows:

... do not attract attention by flashy virtuosity: rather, they are flowing and agreeable chamber music, in which the violinist is in musical conversation with the keyboard player.

Listen — Handel: Affettuoso (Violin Sonata in D, Op 1 No 13)
(DCD34304 track 1, 1:22-1:58) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

Where his vocal works are concerned, Handel did introduce several innovations, but he retained his conservativism when composing instrumental music. These violin sonatas are works of the highest quality in this field, but they were not conceived as an interconnected whole and were composed at different times.

Listen — Handel: Allegro (Violin Sonata in A, Op 1 No 14)
(DCD34304 track 19, 0:00-0:34) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

These are fully-formed pieces that breathe vitality and freshness, and offer a wealth of melody typical of this musical genius.

Listen — Handel: Grave (Violin Sonata in D minor, Op 1 No 1)
(DCD34304 track 9, 0:00-0:39) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

Bojan Čičić (violin) and Steven Devine (on a 1756 Kirckman harpsichord) interpret these masterpieces in miniature with infectious warmth and extraordinary dexterity, and the whole programme is not only a feast for the ears but also a joy for the heart.

Listen — Handel: Allegro (Violin Sonata in D, Op 1 No 13)
(DCD34304 track 4, 2:45-3:36) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

Georg Friederich affectionately invites all music lovers to this most delightful musical menu that is as beguiling as it is compelling. Sound, booklet notes and presentation are state of the art.

Copyright © 21 February 2024 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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