As we all learned from watching There Will Be Blood, ambition can be a good thing and a bad thing. On her fourth solo album, Carnival, Kasey Chambers seemed determined to move past the country influences that dominated her earlier work, and while she proved more than worthy to the task, the album also upped the creative ante in a way that raised unspoken questions about what Chambers would or could do for an encore.
The twenty sonatas on this recording show Handel writing for the professional musicians of his London opera orchestra; they demand considerable skill and stamina both from the soloist and the continuo. Prominent bass parts give the sonatas a contrapuntal strength and vitality, and Handel keeps the elements of display and purely musical argument in admirable balance in these works. For this reason, they are among the most attractive Baroque solo sonatas and deserve their lasting popularity.
Here is a side of Handel unfamiliar even to those knowledgeable about his music. Most of this CD is devoted to miscellaneous songs in English‚ many of them published in his time on song sheets‚ or in journals‚ or given to friends‚ or intended for use in the theatre. They are‚ generally‚ in a more popular vein than his familiar music‚ and often in the style used by such composers as Arne or Boyce‚ or lesser men‚ in their English songs. The best of them‚ to my taste‚ are the theatre songs: ‘I like the amorous youth’ is a specially charming piece‚ and ‘Love’s but the frailty of the mind’‚ a Congreve setting made for the admired actresssinger Kitty Clive‚ is an exquisite and touching little song‚ especially when sung as beautifully as it is here by Emma Kirkby.