George Frideric Handel's Trio Sonatas, Op. 2, were between 10 and 30 years old when they first appeared in a bootleg edition under the imprint of Estienne Roger around 1730. Nonetheless, these sonatas, the second of which was written in Handel's 17th year and the rest created during his tenure with the Earl of Carnarvon in 1717 and 1718, were still innovative when Roger (really, John Walsh under a disguise) rolled them out minus the composer's approval. That they proved enormously popular right off the bat is due to these sonatas' seriousness of purpose, relative lack of frilly ornaments, and a freedom from the tendency toward "Liebhaber" (i.e., amateur) settings so common in printed trio sonatas of the early eighteenth century. The six sonatas in Handel's Op. 2 are obviously meant for skilled players and traverse a surprising range of expressive territory, experienced to the fullest in Sonnerie's Avie recording Handel: Trio Sonatas, Op. 2.
Monica Huggett and Sonnerie have chosen wisely in recording mainstream repertoire that is not to date overdone. Only the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble, London Baroque, and L'Ecole d'Orphée have recorded the Op. 2 set in its entirety, and some of these versions utilize the optional suggestion of flute or recorder over the solo violin. In the course of these performances, Huggett and her faithful second-in-command in Sonnerie Emilia Benjamin, establish through the authority of their playing that the violin was likely the only instrument that Handel himself had in mind when it came to these works, save the first sonata where it seems to make sense. The recording, made at Saint Silas Church in Kentish Town, London, is extraordinary, achieving a full and clear balance of all instruments including the continuo, which is expertly played by Joseph Crouch on the cello and Matthew Halls on a single-manual Italian harpsichord. While all of the performances are excellent, pressed to pick among the six sonatas in this set one gravitates most strongly toward Sonata No. 5 in G minor -- it is truly fabulous. The six sonatas are intelligently sequenced to facilitate attractive listening, rather than in the order given in the published set. As a result, Sonnerie's Handel: Trio Sonatas, Op. 2, moves forward so comfortably that when the end is reached it seems over long before one's threshold of patience is exceeded.