The history of Handel's sonatas for violin and continuo is a tangled web worthy of a detective novel. Suffice it to say that of the six included in the nineteenth-century complete edition of Chrysander, four were spurious, while other authentic works intended for violin by Handel remained largely unknown until modern times.
The present recording by the young American violinist Rachel Barton includes all of the works for violin and continuo known to be authentic Handel, plus three of the four spurious sonatas included by Chrysander and published under Handel's name in separate editions for many years. Musical justification is given in the liner notes for _not_ including the fourth sonata, in E major, though one suspects that the real reason was lack of sufficient room on the CD.
Musicological questions aside, this disc makes enjoyable listening. Perceptive listeners may be able to distinguish the authentic works from the doubtful by the former's greater harmonic variety, breadth of form and technical brilliance, but most music lovers won't care. At any rate, it hardly matters when all are played with equal ease and authority by Barton and company, performing on modern instruments at standard pitch. The general sound and musical tone is an intelligent compromise between so-called historically informed performance on authentic instruments, and mainstream practice. At times the profusion of added ornamentation gets in the way of rather than enhances the melodic line. In particular, cellist John Rozendaal's insistence on elevating the basso continuo to the same prominence and elaboration as the solo is occasionally irritating. On the whole, though, this recording is an expert, absorbing traversal of music that is too frequently relegated to "student repertoire" status.