> HANDEL Concerti Grossi Gardiner [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Concerti Grossi op. 3 (1710-1720)
Concerto Grosso in F major op. 3 no. 4a
Concerto Grosso in D minor op. 3 no. 5
Concerto Grosso in D major op. 3 no. 6
Concerto Grosso in B flat major op. 3 no. 2
Concerto Grosso in G major op. 3 no. 3
Concerto Grosso in B flat major op. 3 no. 1
English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Rec: March 1980, Henry Wood Hall, London.
WARNER APEX 0927 48682 2 [60.21]


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Handel wrote two sets of concerti grossi - the opus 3 and opus 6 concerti. This recording features the opus 3 works, which were published in 1734. However, these concerti date back to around 1710 to 1720, and contain a great deal of music that Handel re-used. The opus 3 concerti differ instrumentally from the later works. These concerti feature winds - oboe, flute and bassoon - whereas the later works were written for strings only.

There is a great deal of instrumental variety in these works. It is almost as if Handel intended them to be an anthology of different possibilities. The first concerto features two bassoons, the second two cellos (in the moving largo they are in the forefront), the third focuses on the flute and oboe, the fourth and fifth are written around violins, and the sixth uses the organ. These are certainly some of the most diverse instrumental works Handel wrote.

This disc, an analogue recording originally released in 1981, is a refreshing hour of music. The sheer energy and involvement of the musicians in these works is exemplary. John Eliot Gardiner gathered a group of ten skilled and sensitive musicians, including violinist Simon Standage and flautist Lisa Beznosiuk, and brought about that rare alchemy of a classical recording - making the results much greater than the sum of their parts. While all the musicians perform brilliantly, there are many moments where the soloists shine individually. Standageís violin in the third movement of the 4th concerto, for example, has that rare combination of excellent tone, perfect rhythm and a high level of emotion. Alastair Ross on organ is captivating in the brief 6th concerto, which, with only two movements, and its very French tone, is one of the gems of this set.

But what stands out is the overall sound, the brightness and energy of the ensemble, the often rapid yet appropriate tempi. All that depends on a conductor who truly understands the music.

This memorable recording is a must for lovers of Handelís instrumental music. This bargain re-release makes it even more attractive - this is a disc to snap up right away.

Kirk McElhearn

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