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John Garth’s two sets of ‘Accompanied Keyboard Sonatas, Op. 2 & 4’ were in all probability first heard in subscription concerts that he set up in Durham along with his mentor Charles Avison in 1752 and in which he continued to be active for 20 years. Op. 2, published in 1768, was such a commercial success that Garth ventured a second set some four years later. All 12 works on this recording are in two movements, sometimes thematically linked. Stylistically, there are clear affinities with the recent Op. 5 sonatas of Johann Christian Bach, which Garth perhaps knew.

Gary Cooper is a persuasive advocate for Garth’s sonatas here, finding a good number of subtle nuances on several different instruments (harpsichord, chamber organ and fortepiano). It would have been nice to know more of the instruments he was using, for instance in the delicious C minor Sonata, Op. 2 no. 3; sadly, the booklet is silent. He is ably supported by key players from the Avison Ensemble, among them Pavlo Beznosiuk, who crafts consistently sophisticated lines from a violin part that could sound unrewarding in the hands of lesser players. In this recording, the interplay within the group allows us a glimpse of the fine expressive potential of the relatively neglected – even unloved – genre of the ‘Accompanied Sonata’.

John Irving Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing