Hyperion Records

Oboe Sonata in B flat major, HWV357
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Handel’s chamber sonatas for solo instrument and continuo accompaniment are a quagmire of doubtful authenticity and numerous sonatas assigned to the wrong solo instrument since faulty early editions were published during the composer’s lifetime without his involvement. The music historian Charles Burney related an anecdote that Handel was amused at seeing a copy of six sonatas for two oboes and continuo, which were alleged to be his earliest compositions written when he was a schoolboy of about ten years of age. Although Handel did not confirm the attribution (scholars now believe that their authenticity is doubtful), he reportedly commented: ‘I used to write like the devil in those days, and chiefly for the hautbois, which was my favourite instrument’.

There are only three sonatas of certain authenticity with solo parts that Handel obviously intended for oboe, and each demonstrates Handel’s apparent enthusiasm for the instrument’s expressive capabilities and colours. The earliest of them is the Oboe Sonata in B flat major HWV357, the so-called ‘Fitzwilliam’ sonata because the autograph is now at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Written on Italian paper that Handel also used at Hanover, the French title on the autograph (‘Sonata pour l’Hautbois Solo’) suggests a Hanoverian origin, but the style of the music seems closer to Handel’s earliest period in Italy.

from notes by David Vickers © 2007

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