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George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Works for Keyboard
Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord)
rec. 2016, Gustav-Mahler-Saal, Toblach, Italy
AUDAX ADX13709 [68:03]

Although he has collaborated on many recordings, this is Philippe Grisvard’s debut solo album. His own accompanying scholarly annotations give an indication of the detailed care and attention he has lavished on this well-constructed programme. George Frederick Handel sits centre stage, and Grisvard’s aim is to explore the richness and variety of the composer's keyboard music between 1700-1740, disregarding chronology in the sequencing. The inclusion of Zachow, Mattheson and Kreiger is apposite; these composers were determining influences on Handel’s style. William Babell is also present, as he went to great lengths to promote the composer’s music in London.

Handel frequently displayed his keyboard skills in improvisation, a speciality he greatly favoured. Grivard speculates that the Babell arrangements could possibly be “transcriptions of spontaneous performances by the maestro”. Babell’s Prelude Presto in F major, which opens the disc, is a spontaneous flourish at just 1 minute long and acts as a sparkling curtain raiser. His arrangement of The Ouverture of Rinaldo and the delightful Lascia Ch'io Pianga offer some insight into the historical practices of ornamentation. In the latter piece, especially, Grivard’s embellishments seem very natural and free-flowing and never obtrusive.

The simplicity of Handel’s beguiling Air in B-flat Major, HWV 469 contrasts strikingly with the virtuosic Chaconne in G Major, HWV 435, a substantial piece of 11 minutes. Aside from the Rinaldo group, it’s possibly the best-known work here, a vehicle for the performer’s technical and expressive skills. I have to admit, though, that no performance of this work will ever replace for me the Murray Perahia piano version. From the Eight Great Suites, the short F major HMV 427 is included. Grisvard brings such delicacy and refinement to the opening Adagio; the Allegro has zest and rhythmic buoyancy and there then follows an Adagio which sounds like a meditative improvisation; it precedes a Fuga in four parts, meticulously delineated. The Suite in E Minor, HWV 438 is more of a fragment, lacking a prelude and courante. Sample the Sonata Larghetto, HWV 580 and you get some indication of the varied registrations Grisvard has at his disposal.

The 2-manual harpsichord that Grisvard plays is a 2013 copy by Detmar Hungerberg of an undated instrument by Michael Mietke. It’s a splendid instrument, with a warm, attractive tone. Captured in a sympathetically resonant acoustic, the engineers have striven for maximum clarity, and they have admirably succeeded in their venture. I applaud Grisvard’s masterly technique and imaginative choices of registration, they evince an adventurous spirit.

Stephen Greenbank

George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
The Ouverture of Rinaldo (arr. Babell) [6:52]
Suite II in F Major, HWV 427 [9:39]
Lascia Ch'io Pianga (arr. Babell) [4:55]
Allegro HWV 427/5 [1:24]
Prelude in D Minor, HWV 563 [2:13]
Air in B-flat Major, HWV 469 [3:17]
Sonata Larghetto, HWV 580 [1:57]
Capriccio in G Minor, HWV 467 [1:49]
Chaconne in G Major, HWV 435 [11:35]
Suite in E Minor, HWV 438 [10:10]
Fuga V in A Minor, HWV 609 [4:07]
Sonatina in A Minor, HWV 584 [1:59]
William BABELL (1690-1759)
Prelude Presto in F Major [1:01]
Prelude Presto in G Major [1:15]
Wilhelm Friedrich ZACHOW (1663-1712)
Capriccio in D Minor [4:10]
Johann MATTHESON (1681-1764)
Prelude in B-flat Major [1:15]
Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649-1725)
Toccata in A Minor [1:00]



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