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Georg Friederich HÄNDEL (1685-1759) Organ Concertos Op. 4 (arr. S. de Lange, 1840-1911)
Concerto Op. 4/1 in G minor [19:55]
Concerto Op. 4/2 in B flat major [14:16]
Concerto Op. 4/3 in G minor [17:48]
Concerto Op. 4/4 in F major [19:18]
Concerto Op. 4/5 in F major [10:42]
Concerto Op. 4/6 in B flat major [13:14]
Rudolf Innig (organ)
rec. 27-28 May 2015, St. Nicolai Lüneburg MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM 317 1929-2 [47:07 + 43:15]
Handel’s organ concertos Opp. 4 and 7 are all good fun, and fit in well with the ‘call and response’ nature of the concerto grosso style which can be heard in his Op. 3 and Op. 6 sets. This particular recording takes up arrangements made for solo organ by Dutch musician Samuel de Lange, who studied organ and composition, performed widely in Europe, composed prolifically, and is remembered for performing Brahm’s Piano Concerto Op. 15 in its Dutch premiere. This is apparently the première recording of these arrangements. De Lange wasn’t the first to make solo organ versions of these concertos, but in contrast to others his scores follow the originals closely while representing “a bold attempt to reconcile Handel’s music with the performing and compositional norms of his time.” This involved adding density to the typically two-voiced organ part and indicating where the orchestra dominates as well as providing detailed instructions as to which manuals and registers are to be used. De Lange clearly revered the old master’s works, but was like Grieg and Brahms, working in a field that at the time paid little attention to ‘correct’ performance. He allows some space for cadenza-like display here and there, but despite a general thickening of textures which we’ve become used to from historically-informed performance practice Handel’s inventiveness still shines through.
Rudolf Innig makes the point in his booklet notes that, 150 years on from Samuel de Lange’s ‘modern’ take on Handel’s organ concertos, these “music on music” versions have today become a “historical phenomenon” in their own right. We therefore have to take ourselves back in time to days long before our own favourites as released by Avie, Hyperion and the like. Allowances have to be made for the lack of contrast between organ and strings, and in the kinds of weightier performance indicated by legato notation and rubato in tempi. There are plenty of reasons for these works being spread over two discs, and these have their origins in 19th century attitudes rather than those of the 18th. You only have to listen to the first Allegro of Op. 4 No. 2 to hear where the organ sonorities and touch are far more romantic with a capital ‘R’ than baroque or galant.
Rudolf Innig’s performances are good, though even he can sometimes find difficulties in the virtuoso demands made by Samuel de Lange. Built in 1899 and restored in 2002, the Furtwängler & Hammer Organ at St. Nicolai Lüneburg is suitably rich sounding, being well captured in MDG’s natural sound but having a generally brown and woody flavour rather than being airy and refreshing or bracingly reedy if you prefer the French sound. I certainly wouldn’t recommend these as a first choice for Handel’s Op. 4 but rather a reminder of how his music would have been heard in the second half of the 19th century.