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A Baroque Festival
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Solomon: The arrival of the Queen of Sheba (1748) [2:46]
Harp Concerto in B flat major, op. 4 no. 6 (1736) [15:50]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
‘Three Parts upon a Ground’ [5:06]
A Suite of Theatre Music [7:52]
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)
Canon and Gigue [5:00]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Wir danken dir, Gott, BWV 29: Sinfonia (1731) [3:36]
Ich steh’ mit einem Fuss im Grabe, BWV 156: Sinfonia (1729) [2:18]
Der Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubilieret, BWV 31: Sonata (1715) [2:21]
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248: Part 2 Sinfonia (1734) [5:57]
Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106: Sonatina (1707 or 1708?) [2:44]
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147: Jesus bleibet meine Freude* (1723) [2:13]
Ich liebe den Hochsten von ganzem Gemute, BWV 174: Sinfonia (1731) [5:45]
Andrew Lawrence-King (harp)
Taverner Consort, Taverner Players/Andrew Parrott *
rec. No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, April, June 1987. DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 3913402 [60:22]


Hot on the heels of Norrington’s Water and Fireworks music comes a generic baroque compilation from Virgin, this time with the Taverner forces under the direction of Andrew Parrott. They’re a year or so “fresher” than the Norrington-Handel performances, both deriving from the mid-1980s or thereabouts.

I had some qualms about some of Norrington’s editorial work in the necessarily congested waters of the Water Music; no such problems really attend this selection of favourites. Everything sounds naturally done; sonorities are spruce and not over-articulated; solo winds are distinguished; the string playing has plenty of snap and sensitive incision. If you want a compilation of theatre and choral favourites you could really do little better than acquiring this hour long conspectus and giving in to its very real charms.

The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba is supremely spruce and not overdone either in relation to tempo or articulation. The rhythm is brilliantly sprung, the resilient dynamism of the playing undeniable.  Andrew Lawrence-King is the soloist in the harp concerto, otherwise known as one of the Op.4 organ concertos and he displays very considerable qualities of expressive control, delicacy and warmth. His articulation is at all times superior and the performance as a whole is sympathetic, engaging and predicated on sure ensemble and fine balance between the solo instrument and the accompanying orchestral figures.

The virtuosity of the Consort can readily be gauged from the Purcell Ground – as one would expect of so august a pairing of talents; John Holloway, Alison Bury, Elizabeth Wallfisch, Jakob Lindberg and Andrew Parrott himself. The suite of Theatre Music comes as rather more relaxed far; a quartet of pieces deriving from The Indian Queen, the Rondeau from   Abdelazer (better known in its guise in Britten’s Young person’s guide to the orchestra), the Chaconne from The Gordian knot untied and the symphony and second act dance from The Indian Queen. 

Invariably we get the Pachelbel Canon and Gigue which is about as far as one can reasonably get from Karajanisation in this repertoire – it’s lithe traversal strong on flair, and moves with grace – dance rhythms are very much to the fore. The Bach extracts are warmly done – full of eloquent solo playing, especially from the late oboist David Reichenberg in the Sinfonia of Cantata 156. But really all the solo contributions, all duly noted in the booklet, are expressively done not least the vocal quartet in Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben. 

This is something more than a starter pack for baroque newcomers; a finely nuanced, well compiled and finely played selection.

Jonathan Woolf 

See also Review by Michael Greenhalgh



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