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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Chaconne in G Major, HWV 435 (by 1733) [7:09]
Suite in D Minor, HWV 436 (by 1733) [12:51]
Suite in E Minor, HWV 438 (by 1733) [7:39]
Suite in B Flat Major, HWV 434 (by 1733) [7:53]
Suite in G Major, HWV 441 (by 1733) [15:22]
Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)
ARCHIV 410 656-2 [54:21]

Trevor Pinnock’s reputation as one of the world’s greatest harpsichordists was done no harm when this CD was originally released nearly 25 years ago. It’s another in the Arkiv series in which you get a record company-authorised CD-R at a cheaper than usual price, a reproduction of the original booklet’s front and back, but not the original liner-notes.
There are four contrasting Suites from one of the high Baroque’s ablest hands: Handel was in his element with the keyboard suite; these are clearly examples of a musical style and genre which he loved and in which he had so much to communicate. As one might expect, each comprises from three to half a dozen or so dance movements. None is much longer than a quarter of an hour in total. Yet each has something different to recommend it; almost every movement makes you want to return to it immediately in order to squeeze more from it each time you listen.
There are gentle moments: the courante of the G Major (HWV 441 – actually from a set published earlier than the others here) is a lesson in unselfconscious peace and stasis. And there are furious moments: listen to the animated but taut opening of the B Flat Major (HWV 434) Prelude… it could be Bach! Pinnock, on the other hand, doesn’t break sweat. Amazing playing. The Sonata that follows, is just as hardy. The Air with Variations that conclude the Suite is redolent of the ‘Harmonious Blacksmith’ (or the Air and Variations as well, from HWV 430)… also measured, insistent yet melodious. And again, this is propelled with style and lightness of touch by Pinnock.

Other recordings of this repertoire have brought more modern – and perhaps more personal, individual - interpretations: Sophie Yates’ Chandos Chaconne series (644, 669, 688) has much to recommend it, but doesn’t really bring the music more alive than Pinnock does here.
The instrument that Pinnock plays was over a hundred years old when Handel wrote this music… a Ruckers of 1612 – and very fine and stately it sounds too. It’s likely to be the kind of harpsichord which found greatest favour with Handel himself. Rounded and warm, yet precise and reverberant, it’s a delight to hear.
So this is something of a sampler – certainly not the only way to group these pleasant pieces. But it’s a programme that works and which will give repeated and prolongued pleasure: Pinnock’s playing is well up to its usually high standard.
Mark Sealey


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