Handel: Complete Violin Sonatas

Though better known as a virtuoso keyboard player, as a young man Handel also trained as a violinist. His works for violin and harpsichord, says essayist Donald Burrows, ‘do not attract attention by flashy virtuosity: rather, they are flowing and agreeable chamber music, in which the violinist is in musical conversation with the keyboard player’.

Who better to guide us in this conversation than two early music stars – Bojan Čičić, fresh from acclaimed solo recordings of Bach and Johann Jakob Walther; and Steven Devine, who has known the magnificent 1756 Kirckman harpsichord since boyhood and for whom, he says, it is a privilege and delight to record these Handel Sonatas on it.

'How many violin sonatas did Handel write? It's a thorny issue, ambushed by false attributions and the fluidity of the composer's instrumental intentions. Some 'complete' recordings aspire to eight or nine, Bojan Čičić settles for seven, interleaved with sundry single movements including the Sonatina from Handel's 1737 respray of his Trionfo del Tempo, plus a fantasia- like soliloquy HWV 407 for violin alone (delivered with compelling, introspective delicacy) ... From the scampering moto perpetuo of HWV 358's first Allegro to the wistful, statuesque gravitas of the D minor's Grave, the performances exude affectionate insight, improvisatory flair and technical aplomb. A serendipitous bonus is Devine's choice of harpsichord: a gloriously robust instrument by London-based Jacob Kirkman built just three years before Handel's death'

"The presence of this Croatian-born violinist is definitely a big attraction, particularly after last year's superlative album of Bach's solo sonatas and partitas. His keyboard partner, Steven Devine, is no slouch either, and both find innumerable delights in the seven sonatas, plus five bits and bobs, from a composer mostly known for his operas, oratorios and keyboard prowess, not for fiddling about with a bow and four strings. The opening D major sonata, dated about 1750, is especially splendid, featuring strong dancing rhythms and a first movement fully deserving the expressive marking "affettuoso" (with feeling).Armed with his 1703 baroque violin, Cicic's eloquent, gracefully ornamented delivery of Handel's melodic flights sits perfectly alongside the sprightly sounds of Devine's 1756 harpsichord - an instrument, we're told, that Devine has known since childhood. Listening to the results made me realise how much time I wasted twiddling with my mother's accordion and pushing Dinky toys across the floor"


"So seductive I was drawn into it immediately. The improvisatory immediacy of violinist Bojan Cicic, his phrasing and ornamentation beautifully matching and responding to harpsichordist Steven Devine's communicative playing on a really nice mid-18th-century instrument ... A vital reminder of the joys and beauties of Handel's keyboard writing. He also seems to have trained as a violinist himself and that level of intimate understanding shines through in these performances. Well-balanced recording as well. Handel's Complete Violin Sonatas from Cicic and Devine. It's new this week on the Delphian label. Easy to spot - it's got a lobster on the cover ... "



"It’s hard to imagine Handel's violin sonatas played with more dedication—you can feel the energy flying between violinist Bojan Čičić and his sparring partner, harpsichordist Steven Devine. For a taste of the straightforward, ebullient Handel, the Sonata in G Major, HWV 358 is a constant delight. The more mature D Major Sonata HWV 371 that begins this album, one of Handel’s last works completed nine years or so before his death, is the most celebrated of them all. Its second and fourth movements are Handel at his rollicking best, while its slow movements are simply ravishing."


"These are fully-formed pieces that breathe vitality and freshness, and offer a wealth of melody typical of this musical genius ... Bojan Čičić (violin) and Steven Devine (on a 1756 Kirckman harpsichord) interpret these masterpieces in miniature with infectious warmth and extraordinary dexterity, and the whole programme is not only a feast for the ears but also a joy for the heart ... Georg Friederich affectionately invites all music lovers to this most delightful musical menu that is as beguiling as it is compelling. Sound, booklet notes and presentation are state of the art"

read the full review here

"From two real specialists when it comes to Early Music ... [there's a ] gorgeously chrystalline sound of the Harpsichord on this brand new recording from Bojan Cicic and Steven Devine"



'those who enjoyed Bojan Cicic's recent solo Bach are likely to be very pleased here, because what remains constant is his warmly unfussy delivery - clean tone, phrasing gently and elegantly shaped, drawing out beautiful long lines via flowing articulation which injects just the tiniest bit of air between the notes-and intimate-feeling lyricism. There's also the draw for harpsichord lovers of Steven Devine's close partnering being from the glorious two- manual harpsichord built in 1756 by Jacob Kirckman of London, quilled throughout in real quill ... Čičić presents an array of single 'orphan' movements that don't turn up in every Handel collection, of which perhaps the most interesting of all is the single-stave Allegro in G, HWV407, penned in the leftover space on a discarded Haydn K Armstrong Serse violin part in 1738, and sounding much like an experiment in Bach-style solo violin-writing. This vignette sounds very lovely indeed under Čičie's fingers- notably more leisurely paced than Adrian Butterfield's reading (Somm, 2/08) but still meeting the Allegro brief, and with a softly rubato'd spaciousness and intimacy that feels closer to Bach's more introspective beauty; and it's then a neat tip into the indisputably merry Allegro opening the G major Sonata, HWV358, typifying the thoughtful programming that sometimes follows key and sometimes period... There are so many other examples I could cite of the thoughtfulness and elegance, the range of colours and moods and the close musical conversation across this programme, all crisply captured in St Martin's Church, East Woodhay, Hampshire. If you like your Handel to come with its emotions and colourings a bit more theatrical or obviously extrovert at points, or with a more excited nip to some of its allegro movements, this may not be completely what you're after. Listen long enough, though, and you might find yourself being won over in spite of yourself.'

Release Date: 23 February 2023
Catalogue No: DCD34304
Total playing time: 1:06:00

Recorded on 13-15 March 2023 in St Martin’s Church, East Woodhay
Producer/Engineer: Paul Baxter
24-bit digital editing: Jack Davis
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter

Harpsichord tuning: Steven Devine

Design: Drew Padrutt
Booklet editor: Henry Howard

Cover image: Charles Dessalines D’Orbigny
(1806–1876), Crimson Crawfish (Palemon ornatum); digitally enhanced and supplied by rawpixel.com.

Session photography and videography: foxbrush.co.uk

Delphian Records Ltd – Edinburgh – UK





Singing In Secret: Clandestine Catholic Music by William Byrd CD Delphian Records


Sonata in D Major, Opus 1, No.3


Bojan and Steven perform Handel's Sonata in G minor, Op 1 No 6 during recording sessions ...

Album Booklet

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