Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Concerto Grossi, Opus 6 (1739): No. 1 in G major; No. 2 in F major; No. 8 in C minor; No. 9 in F major; No. 10 in D minor; No. 12 in B minor
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Iona Brown
Rec. 23-30 August 1994, Henry Wood Hall, London
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD94.001 [72.53]
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When someone asked Elgar how he had learned to write so well for strings, his answer was unequivocal: 'You will find the answer in Handel; I went to him for help years ago.' And it is true that the effectiveness and the sheer beauty of the string writing in these Handel concertos is marvellous. With the concertos of Bach, Handel's Opus 6 set of twelve concerti grossi represents the high point in baroque orchestral music.

Handel was the greatest cosmopolitan of the age: a German composer, living in London, writing Italian operas. Of course he also wrote a good deal more, such as the oratorios in English which became his stock-in-trade when the Italian opera went out of fashion. For he was an immensely practical musician, who made his way by collaborating with the best artists of the day and working at the highest levels of performance, creating the music the audience wanted, having already made a strong impression on the direction of public taste.

The Opus 6 concerti grossi came into being in a manner at once typical of Handel's career. When the concerti of the Italian ex-patriot Bononcini became all the rage in London, Handel's publisher, John Walsh suggested to the great man that he might compose something along similar lines. He duly obliged, and six weeks later he completed these twelve concertos.

These twelve concertos are essentially string music, with keyboard continuo and in some editions the option of oboe parts also, which are not employed here. Handel's formula is closest to the model of the concerto da chiesa established by Corelli a generation before, with the alternation of quicker and slower identities, and with a concertino group of two violins and cello set against the ensemble. However, in great music such as this it is dangerous to be too proscriptive in one's descriptions, since there are so many varieties and shadings.

Iona Brown directs performances full of sensitivity and insight, and the Hänssler recording allows the string sound the required bloom and richness. As an example, look no further than the great Larghetto 'slow movement' of Opus 12, which has a keenly judged tempo and a warmly rich sound (TRACK 30: 0.00). Among other recordings of this music, the performances of Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert (Archiv), but the sound quality of the gut strings does not please the ear as the modern instruments of the Academy do.

Each concerto has abundant subtleties and the highest levels of inspiration, and all of them are fully worthy of Handel's genius. The same might be said of these performances, which are beautifully recorded in a sympathetic acoustic. At bargain price there is no reason to hesitate, save that bargain price Hänssler discs contain no insert notes, requiring that the purchaser access the 'free download' of the complete booklet. This is all very well, but not everyone can do so, and in any case A4 size paper will not fit in a CD-size case.

If the nobility of the slow movements is among the strengths of Iona Brown's interpretations, the balancing of the part writing and the lively rhythmic vitality are others. Take the opening measures of the very first concerto (in G Major) for example, which set the tone for the whole enterprise (TRACK 1: 0.00). These are ensemble pieces rather than concertos for solo display, although sometimes the solo group of two violins and cello can have driving rhythmic passages in the manner of Vivaldi. These players are experienced hands in this aspect of baroque repertoire too, and when virtuosity if required they never disappoint. The penultimate Allegro of Opus 6 No. 10, sounding so like Vivaldi, is a particularly spirited example (TRACK 26: 0.00).

Terry Barfoot

 


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FREE SOUND SAMPLES
(minimum 30 secs)

Concerto Grosso op. 6, No. 1 in G Major:
A tempo giusto

Allegro

Adagio

Allegro

Allegro

Concerto Grosso op. 6, No. 2 in F Major:
andante larghetto

Allegro

Largo

Allegro ma non troppo

Concerto Grosso op. 6, No. 8 in C Minor
Allemande: Andante

Grave

Andante allegro

Adagio

Siciliana: Andante

Allegro

Concerto Grosso op. 6, No. 9 in F Major:
Largo

Allegro

Larghetto

Allegro

Menuet

Gigue

Concerto Grosso op. 6, No. 10 in D Minor:
Overture

Allegro lento

Air: Lento

Air: Lento

Allegro

Allegro

Concerto Grosso op. 6, No. 12 in B Minor:
Largo

Allegro

Aria: Larghetto e piano/Varatio

Largo

Allegro



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