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George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1750)
Complete Harpsichord Music
Michael Borgstede/Roberto Loreggian; Elisa Fanchini
Roberto Loreggian (CDs 1, 2, 3)
Elisa Fanchini (CD 4)
Michael Borgstede (CDs 5, 6, 7, 8)
rec. no details supplied
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95235 [8 CDs: 9:08:19]

Although the booklet notes are a little confusing at times, these eight discs do indeed comprise Handel’s surviving solo keyboard music. For such a mammoth task two harpsichordists have shared the load, seven years apart. A third, Elisa Fanchini, appears on CD 4 in the works for two harpsichords, that is the four movement Suite which opens the disc and the final track, the exciting Sonata in G.

The instruments themselves are in the top rank of reconstruction and one of Frezzato-Di Marti’s harpsichords was completed only weeks before the 2015 recording session. Another was finished the previous year. Both are after instruments by Giovanni Battista Giusti who was working in Florence in the second half of the sixteenth century. I wonder if Handel played some of Giusti's keyboards? The other instrument, which features especially on CD 4, is a copy of a 1612 Ruckers and has a superb bass. Listen to the Partita in C minor to realise its gorgeous mellowness. There is also a double manual ‘harpsichord ravalement’. This has been an instrument (re)designed by the Ruckers family which has had its range extended to five octaves.

In the detailed and fascinating booklet notes, Michael Borgsted astonishingly remarks, despite the fact that this box runs to nine hours of music that “Handel did not create as an extensive body of original work specifically for the harpsichord”. What he means is that many of the pieces can be found in other arrangements. He goes into some considerable detail about the publication of various pieces and their pirated versions. The latter were published by John Walsh with whom, curiously, Handel remained on friendly terms. I won't rehearse these dates and details in this review, but much of the keyboard music seems to have been written before Handel was forty. Indeed many are from his early years whilst studying in Italy and may not have been published at all had he not been spiked by Walsh. They were probably composed for pupils and are often didactic in intent. Interestingly many are and have been used for modern-day piano grade exams.

There are then two books of published keyboard works and some unpublished pieces including arrangements of arias. The first of the books dates from 1720, the second from 1733. Handel may well have taken little interest in them, as the originals are full of errors. Handel published no others and he was only about 48. The pivotal works in each book are the grand Suites, sixteen in all covering practically four of the CDs, that is discs 4-7 - half the set. Incidentally the famous Air otherwise called ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’ is the last movement of the 4th Suite in E major. As can be seen, on discs 1 and 2, there are other suites but these have been largely cobbled together, probably by the publisher. Even so the two sets of eight suites were assembled from a variety of older material. In the 1720 collection Suites 1, 4, 5 and 8 already existed as dance suites; others were re-ordered with some dances added and some pieces extracted. The effect however is consistent and clearly offers us the best of the young composer.

Borgstede unostentatiously observes all repeats and often ornaments with subtlety. It would be good to know which edition he is using. It’s certainly not the fairly standard ABRSM (Richard Jones) one I have.

On the whole the 1733 Suites are more compact than the earlier ones but still consist of the same dance movements. Suites 6, 7 and 8 start with a two-part Allemande; otherwise there is a fairly free and showy Prelude. This is followed by an Allemande, a Courante, a Sarabande and a Gigue, even a Passacaille. Other suites just have the Italian tempo markings: the 6th Suite, in the unusual key F sharp minor, has a Prelude and Gigue but also a Largo and an Allegro. There are also sometimes Fugues. Talking of which on CD 3 there is a set of Six Fugues. These are rather academic exercises in some ways but each has some interest. The second fugue, in G major is especially fine. Another notable work is the ‘Aria con variazione’, which Brahms used for his fine ‘Variations and Fugue on a theme of Handel’.

There are also two Partitas generally defined as multi-movement pieces for a solo instrument. The difference is that they have no prelude but an extra long rather run-of-the-mill opening Allemande as in the A major piece. This is followed by three dances.

You may feel that there is too much music here for general interest. For myself I listened over a period of four weeks and found the music of interest and variety. At Brilliant Classics' brilliant price the box which is consistently and beautifully recorded, despite the differing venues, is well worth the financial outlay.

Gary Higginson


Track-listings

CD 1 [77.21]
1. Suite in C Major, HWV 443: I. Praeludium
2. Suite in C Major, HWV 443: II. Allemande
3. Suite in C Major, HWV 443: III. Courante
4. Suite in C Major, HWV 443: IV. Sarabande – Double
5. Suite in C Major, HWV 443: V. Gigue
6. Suite in C Major, HWV 443: VI. Chaconne
7. Partita in G Major, HWV 450: I. Preludio
8. Partita in G Major, HWV 450: II. Allemande
9. Partita in G Major, HWV 450: III. Courante
10. Partita in G Major, HWV 450: IV. Sarabande
11. Partita in G Major, HWV 450: V. Gigue
12. Partita in G Major, HWV 450: VI. Menuet
13. Prelude in D Minor, HWV 563
14. Prelude and Capriccio in G Major, HWV 571: I. Prelude
15. Prelude and Capriccio in G Major, HWV 571: II. Capriccio
16. Suite in G Minor, HWV 453: I. Overture. Grave – Allegro
17. Suite in G Minor, HWV 453: II. Entrée
18. Suite in G Minor, HWV 453: III. Chaconne
19. Prelude in D Minor, HWV 564
20. Allegro in C Major, HWV 472
21. Chaconne in F Major, HWV 485
22. Suite in D Minor, HWV 448: I. Overture: Grave – Allegro –Adagio – Allegro
23. Suite in D Minor, HWV 448: II. Allemande
24. Suite in D Minor, HWV 448: III. Courante
25. Suite in D Minor, HWV 448: IV. Sarabande I – Sarabande II
26. Suite in D Minor, HWV 448: V. Chaconne
rec. 7-9 April, 11-13 May 2015, Abbazia di Santa delle Carceri d’Este. Padua, Italy

CD 2 [56.10]
1. Suite in D Minor, HWV 449: I. Prelude
2. Suite in D Minor, HWV 449: II. Allemande
3. Suite in D Minor, HWV 449: III. Courante
4. Suite in D Minor, HWV 449: IV. Sarabande
5. Suite in D Minor, HWV 449: V. Aria
6. Suite in D Minor, HWV 449: VI. Gigue
7. Suite in D Minor, HWV 449: VII. Menuet
8. Keyboard Sonatina in D Minor, HWV 581.9
9. Allemande in A Minor, HWV 478.10
10. Fugue in F Major, HWV 611
11. Chaconne in G Minor, HWV 486
12. Partita in C Minor, HWV 444: I. Prelude
13. Partita in C Minor, HWV 444: II. Allemande
14. Partita in C Minor, HWV 444: III. Courante
15. Partita in C Minor, HWV 444: IV. Gavotte
16. Partita in C Minor, HWV 444: V. Menuet
17. Suite in C Minor, HWV 445: I. Prelude
18. Suite in C Minor, HWV 445: II. Allemande
19. Suite in C Minor, HWV 445: III. Courante
20. Prelude and Allegro in A Minor, HWV 576: I. Prelude
21. Prelude and Allegro in A Minor, HWV 576: II. Allegro
22. Air in G Minor, HWV 467
23. Toccata in G Minor, HWV 586
24. Keyboard Sonatina in G Minor, HWV 583
25. Keyboard Sonata in G Minor, HWV 580: Larghetto
26. Concerto in G Major, HWV 487: I. Allegro
27. Concerto in G Major, HWV 487: II. Andante
28. Air in B-Flat Major, HWV 471
29. Preludium in F Major, HWV 567
30. Preludium in F Minor, HWV 568
31. Prelude in G Minor, HWV 573
32. Prelude in E Major, HWV 566
33. Air in G Minor, HWV 466
34. Air in B-Flat Major, HWV 470
35. Impertinence in G Minor, HWV 494
36. Air in F Major, HWV 465
37. Allegro in D Minor, HWV 475
38. Courante in B Minor, HWV 489
rec. 21-25 January 2008, Remonstrantse Doopsgezinde Church

CD 3 [74.28]
1. Prelude and Chaconne in G Major, HWV 442: I. Prelude
2. Prelude and Chaconne in G Major, HWV 442: II. Chaconne
3. Six Fugues: I. Fugue No. 1 in G Minor, HWV 605
4. Six Fugues: II. Fugue No. 2 in G Major, HWV 606
5. Six Fugues: III. Fugue No. 3 in B-Flat Major, HWV 607
6. Six Fugues: IV. Fugue No. 4 in B Minor, HWV 608
7. Six Fugues: V. Fugue No. 5 in A Minor, HWV 609
8. Six Fugues: VI. Fugue No. 6 in C Minor, HWV 610
9. Keyboard Sonata in C Major, HWV 577
10. Capriccio in F Major, HWV 481
11. Prelude and Allegro in G Minor, HWV 574
12. Fantasia in C Major, HWV 490
13. Suite in D Minor, HWV 447: I. Allemande
14. Suite in D Minor, HWV 447: II. Courante
15. Suite in D Minor, HWV 447: III. Sarabande
16. Suite in D Minor, HWV 447: IV. Gigue
17. Suite in G Minor, HWV 452: I. Allemande
18. Suite in G Minor, HWV 452: II. Courante
19. Suite in G Minor, HWV 452: III. Sarabande
20. Suite in G Minor, HWV 452: IV. Gigue. 21
21. Capriccio in G Minor, HWV 483
rec. 7-9 April, 11-13 May 2015, Abbazia di Santa Maria delle Cartier d’Este, Padua, Italy

CD 4 [55.38]
1. Suite in C Minor, for 2 harpsichords HWV 446: I. Allemande
2. Suite in C Minor, HWV 446: II. Courante
3. Suite in C Minor, HWV 446: III. Sarabande
4. Suite in C Minor, HWV 446: IV. Chaconne
5. Allemande in A Major, HWV 477
6. Allemande in F Major, HWV 476
7. Gigue in F Major, HWV 492.8
8. Prelude in D Minor, HWV 56.
9. Keyboard Sonatina in G Major, HWV 582
10. Keyboard Sonatina in B-Flat Major, HWV 585
11. Prelude in F-Sharp Minor, HWV 570
12. Air in A Major, HWV 468
13. Sonata for a Musical Clock in C Major, HWV 578: I. Allegro
14. Sonata for a Musical Clock in C Major, HWV 578: II. Trio. Larghetto
15. Sonata for a Musical Clock in C Major, HWV 578: III. Gavotte. Non troppo presto
16. Prelude in A Minor, HWV 575
17. Lesson in A Minor, HWV 496
18. Partita in A Major, HWV 454: I. Allemande
19. Partita in A Major, HWV 454: II. Courante
20. Partita in A Major, HWV 454: III. Sarabande
21. Partita in A Major, HWV 454: IV. Gigue
22. Prelude in G Minor, HWV 572.
23. Keyboard Sonata in G Major, HWV 579
rec. 7-9 April, 11-13 May 2015, Abbatio di Santa Maria della, Padua

CD 5 [60.34]
1. Suite in A Major, HWV 426: I. Prelude
2. Suite in A Major, HWV 426: II. Allemande
3. Suite in A Major, HWV 426: III. Courante
4. Suite in A Major, HWV 426: IV. Gigue
5. Suite in F Major, HWV 427: I. Adagio
6. Suite in F Major, HWV 427: II. Allegro
7. Suite in F Major, HWV 427: III. Adagio
8. Suite in F Major, HWV 427: IV. Allegro
9. Suite in D Minor, HWV 428: I. Prelude. Presto
10. Suite in D Minor, HWV 428: II. Allegro
11. Suite in D Minor, HWV 428: III. Allemande
12. Suite in D Minor, HWV 428: IV. Courante
13. Suite in D Minor, HWV 428: V. Air
14. Suite in D Minor, HWV 428: VI. Presto
15. Suite in E Minor, HWV 429: I. Allegro.
16. Suite in E Minor, HWV 429: II. Allemande
17. Suite in E Minor, HWV 429: III. Courante
18. Suite in E Minor, HWV 429: IV. Sarabande.
19. Suite in E Minor, HWV 429: V. Gigue
rec. 21-25 January 2008, Remonstrantse Doopsgezinde Church

CD 6 [56.10]
1. Suite in E Major, HWV 430: I. Prelude
2. Suite in E Major, HWV 430: II. Allemande
3. Suite in E Major, HWV 430: III. Courante
4. Suite in E Major, HWV 430: IV. Air
5. Suite in F-Sharp Minor, HWV 431: I. Prelude
6. Suite in F-Sharp Minor, HWV 431: II. Largo
7. Suite in F-Sharp Minor, HWV 431: III. Allegro
8. Suite in F-Sharp Minor, HWV 431: IV. Gigue. Presto
9. Suite in G Minor, HWV 432: I. Overture. Largo – Presto – Lentement
10. Suite in G Minor, HWV 432: II. Andante
11. Suite in G Minor, HWV 432: III. Allegro
12. Suite in G Minor, HWV 432: IV. Sarabande
13. Suite in G Minor, HWV 432: VI. Passacaille
14. Suite in G minor HWV 432. VII Sarabande
15. Suite in F Minor, HWV 433: I. Prelude. Adagio
16. Suite in F Minor, HWV 433: II. Fugue
17. Suite in F Minor, HWV 433: III. Allemande.
18. Suite in F Minor, HWV 433: IV. Courante
19. Suite in F Minor, HWV 433: V. Gigue
rec. 21-25 January 2008, Remonstrantse Doopsgezinde Church

CD 7 [50.16]
1. Suite in B-Flat Major, HWV 434: I. Prelude
2. Suite in B-Flat Major, HWV 434: II. Sonata
3. Suite in B-Flat Major, HWV 434: III. Aria con variazioni
4. Suite in B-Flat Major, HWV 434: IV. Minuet
5. Chaconne in G Major, HWV 435
6. Suite in D Minor, HWV 436: I. Allemande
7. Suite in D Minor, HWV 436: II. Allegro
8. Suite in D Minor, HWV 436: III. Air. Lentement
9. Suite in D Minor, HWV 436: IV. Gigue. Presto
10. Suite in D Minor, HWV 436: V. Menuetto
11. Suite in D Minor, HWV 437: I. Allmand
12. Suite in D Minor, HWV 437: II. Corrant
13. Suite in D Minor, HWV 437: III. Saraband
14. Suite in D Minor, HWV 437: IV. Jigg
15. Suite in E Minor, HWV 438: I. Allmand
16. Suite in E Minor, HWV 438: II. Saraband
17. Suite in E Minor, HWV 438: III. Jigg
rec. 10-13 December 2007, Remonstrantse Doopsgezinde Church

CD 8 [56.13]
1. Suite in G Minor, HWV 439: I. Allmand
2. Suite in G Minor, HWV 439: II. Corrant
3. Suite in G Minor, HWV 439: III. Jigg
4. Suite in B-Flat Major, HWV 440: I. Allmand
5. Suite in B-Flat Major, HWV 440: II. Corrant.
6. Suite in B-Flat Major, HWV 440: III. Saraband
7. Suite in B-Flat Major, HWV 440: IV. Jigg
8. Suite in G Major, HWV 441: I. Allemande
9. Suite in G Major, HWV 441: II. Allegro
10. Suite in G Major, HWV 441: III. Corante
11. Suite in G Major, HWV 441: IV. Aria. Presto
12. Suite in G Major, HWV 441: V. Menuetto
13. Suite in G Major, HWV 441: VI. Gavotta
14. Suite in G Major, HWV 441: VII. Gigue
15. Preludio. Allegro
16. Rinaldo, HWV 7b: “Vo’ far Guerra”
rec. 10-13 December 2007, Remonstrantse Doopsgezinde Church

 

 




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