The harpsichord used in this collection is a modern instrument designed by
the American David Way and it incorporates features of many French 18th century
I am indebted to Alan Cuckston for playing this repertoire in a 'straight'
way. Too many players are so bogged down by fruitless attempts to produce
'authentic performances' that they miss the spirit of the music. Their playing
is therefore inhibited and has three main annoying quirks at
least. Firstly, they make far too much of ornamentation so that the
essential mordents, trills and shakes are given such a dramatic exaggeration
that they stand out like angry spots upon a blemished face. Mr Cuckston's
ornamentation is beautifully incorporated into the natural flair of the music.
Secondly, some players are afraid of lively speeds for the quicker movements
... I suspect it is because they do not have the requisite finger technique
... and so the music does not come to life. But, in these performances, it
does. Thirdly, some players indulge in grinding rallentandos and,
to make matters worse, hang on to cadences for an inordinate length of time
so that if a cadence is crotchet, crotchet rest and crotchet at say
allegro, which should take just over one second, it can take more
than five times as long and has the nauseating aural effect like unto some
servile servant apologising to his master, and most profusely, while backing
out of his presence.
Mr Cuckston does observe some rallentandos but there is not this excess,
this ghastly self-indulgence and musical fetishes!
But here Handel comes alive and surely all music should be both vibrant and
alive. Players can kill music for reasons I have already mentioned and no
corpse is ever pleasant and it certainly cannot communicate.
The energy and reliability of these performances are exemplary. The F
sharp Suite is beset with all sorts of problems but they are not revealed
here. The F minor Suite has splendid fugue and, as I have said before,
couldn't Handel write a good fugue untrammelled by academia which sometimes
the fugues of the great J.S. Bach may be.
The shorter pieces are a delight particularly the Capriccio and more
so when it is played with such panache as this. The Air and Variations
were the subject of Brahms's great Variations on a Theme of Handel
(do investigate the brilliant recording by Peter Katin on Athene (ATH CD
A thoroughly enjoyable disc beautifully played and well-recorded. And all
players of Handel should note. Play Handel like this and you and your audiences
will reap deserved awards.