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Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
Concerti Grossi Op. 6, Nos. 7-12 (1739)
Concerto Grosso in B-flat major, Op.6, No.7 [12:46]
Concerto Grosso in C minor, Op.6, No.8 [12:01]
Concerto Grosso in F major, Op.6, No.9 [13:13]
Concerto Grosso in D minor, Op.6, No.10 [13:08]
Concerto Grosso in A major, Op.6, No.11 [16:45]
Concerto Grosso in B minor, Op.6, No.12 [11:38]
rec. Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts, 22-24 February
should have a bit of Handel in their music collection. Some
of the best and most representative pieces one could have
are the Concerti Grossi, which include Handel’s Op.3 but
more importantly his Op.6. Apart from just being highly
entertaining works, they offer a wealth of sources and influences, ‘nicked’ not
only from Handel’s own work, but from that of other composers
who interested him at the time. This is hardly surprising,
since he blasted through the composition of these works within
a month. Not even the greatest of geniuses could manage that
kind of sustained creativity without drawing on one wellspring
of previously existing music or another.
Pearlman’s own booklet notes offer a great deal of insight
and detail on all of the concertos here, and it is fascinating
either to pick out the references mentioned, or embark on
a voyage of discovery, finding out more about the great variety
of pieces which Pearlman mentions or scurrying to your shelves
to see if they are already there. He even mentions Lukas
Foss’s 1967 Baroque variations, which uses the Larghetto from
the Concerto No.12. I was convinced I had it on LP,
but it turned out to be Geod from 1969 – which shows
how much I know about my own collection.
illustrated the stimulating effect Handel can still have
even today, a new recording of the Op.6 is welcome.
My own reference has been that of Iona
Brown, which was well received on these pages, but is
a rather unequal comparison having been recorded using modern
instruments. I was also intrigued to see another set with
Christopher Hogwood from the Boston region
which has received plaudits from many sides. Both of these
have been around long enough to have been deleted and reissued
on different labels, Brown on Brilliant, Hogwood on Avie
from the original Decca L’Oiseau Lyre.
new Telarc set has been issued on two separate discs, the
first of which promising much if the reviews are to be trusted.
Indeed, they can be – trusted that is. These are spirited
performances of the utmost clarity and refinement. These
works are basically string concerti with the addition of
harpsichord or organ continuo, and the balance here seems
to me to be very good indeed. The harpsichord is used appropriately
to add rhythmic bounce and some harmonic richness and sparkle
to the whole effect. It is not too prominent, mixing in with
the string texture in an unobtrusive manner. I certainly
prefer this approach to the twangy arpeggios in the opening Largo of
Iona Brown’s Concerto No.9 by way of comparison – the
ability of this instrument to mix also being hampered somewhat
by being stuck far out on the right channel. The Boston
baroque harpsichord is centrally placed, and the same goes
for the nicely rounded sounding organ which supports some
of the slow movements, and even gets the solo in the short Largo of Concerto
No.11. The period strings are perhaps not quite as rich-sounding
as those of the ‘modern’ Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields,
but this is much as one would expect, and the benefit in
transparency and contrast offers equal and sometimes emphatically
greater rewards in return.
is no lack of involvement in the playing either. Take the
dramatic opening to the Concerto No.10, around which
one could imagine the scenery of a grand opera gathering
and taking shape before the entrance of some bearded deity.
The conversations between solo and ripieno groups are done
with wit and subtlety, without having the soloists shoved
right under our noses. The balance is made through the dynamic
sensitivity of the ensemble, as can clearly be heard in the
gorgeous Andante of Concerto No.11.
in an intimate fashion but in a space which has plenty of
acoustic volume to reflect some of those dramatic silences,
such as in the opening of the Concerto No.12, I can
find no fault with Telarc’s engineering. All in all, this
is a life-enhancing disc, and I shall be making haste to
complete the duo with volume 1.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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