This superb recording of Handel's Trio sonatas forms the latest, and sadly, the last, of the "Handel Opus Number" series recorded by the Academy of Ancient Music and Richard Egarr of the past two years. It has been an excellent run. This series of recordings has set a new benchmark standard for Handel recordings, and each set in the series (see links, below) has been uniformly excellent. It is sad to see the series end, but of course, Handel only wrote so many of these non-vocal pieces during his career (Handel's prodigious output was turned mostly to vocal and oratorio pieces). The AAM has nevertheless taken what Handel wrote and done a masterful job of adding to the Handelian repertoire of recordings by producing a set that will be treasured by all enthusiasts.
The price on these recordings is quite high, but one must remember that this is the price (literally) we must pay in order to see state of the art recordings newly made by the world's best orchestras, and the Academy of Ancient Music, now under Egarr's lead, is certainly among that esteemed list of orchestras. The performances are nothing less than superb, and bring back the memories of the great series of recordings made with Pinnock and Hogwood from the 1970's and 80's. It can be easily seen after listening to these recordings just why the Academy has been the recipient of much praise and awards. These players have reached a level of excellence that clearly places them amongst the top performers to be found anywhere. But the recordings, too, made here by Harmonia Mundi, are also superb. The sonics are excellent, with great dynamic range, imperceptible noise levels, and fantastic orchestral balance. Before you rip these to your MP3 player, make sure you spend some time listening to them with a good set of headphones from the original CD's, and see what a performance can really sound like.
Make sure you read Egarr's comments in the enclosed liner about certain pieces of Handel's works being now listed as "spurious." It's an interesting set of ideas he expounds.
In short, I easily can rate this at my strongest rating level, with five stars for performance, five stars for recording, and three stars for price (but only because it is difficult to pay so much for a recording, but if this is what it takes to ensure we have more of these recordings made, then it is alright, and perhaps, in some way, to actually be encouraged). Don't miss out on this superb series.
Make sure you also look into The Academy of Ancient Music's other recordings in the "Handel Opus Number" series, all available now:
Handel: Organ Concertos Op. 7
Handel: 12 Solo Sonatas, Op. 1Aca
Handel: Concerti Grossi, Op. 3; Sonata a 5
Handel: Organ Concertos, Op. 4 [Hybrid SACD]