Handel Concerti Grossi Op 3; Sonata a 5

A revitalised Academy bring fresh attention to Handel's charming music

Author: 
David Vickers

HANDEL Concerti Grossi Op 3; Sonata a 5

  • (6) Concerti grossi
  • Sonata a cinque
  • Concerto for Viola and Strings
  • Ariodante, ~, Scherza infida in grembo al drudo
  • Ariodante, Dopo notte, atra e funesta
  • Water Music, Flute Suite in G:

Handel’s Op 3 Concerti grossi was his first published set of concertos, although scholars have regarded the level of his personal involvement in John Walsh’s 1734 edition with suspicion. Richard Egarr, newly appointed music director of the Academy of Ancient Music, suggests that Handel might have had more of a hand in the compilation of Op 3 than hitherto identified. Fresh speculation is a healthy opportunity to reconsider matters but the truly significant aspect of this recording is the new attention brought to Handel’s charming music. It is hard to think of a lovelier moment in all of Handel’s orchestral works than the spellbinding cellos interweaving under a plaintive solo oboe in the Largo of No 2. Likewise, the immense personality of the solo organ runs during the finale of No 6 is a potently precocious display of Handel’s genius at the keyboard. All such moments come across with vitality and passion.

The AAM has never committed Op 3 to disc before (Christopher Hogwood’s fine account was at the helm of the Handel & Haydn Society; Avie, 1/06). Under Egarr the orchestra sound as good as ever, perhaps even reinvigorated and a few degrees sparkier. These are for the most part lively performances full of fizzy finesse. There are several fine recordings that find a little more warmth, sentimentality and intimacy in the music, most notably those by the Brandenburg Consort (Hyperion, 6/93R) and Tafelmusik (Sony, 7/93 – nla), although the energetic brilliance so prominent in the AAM’s crisply athletic playing has its own rewards. The musicians are unanimously immersed in the intricacies of the music, but special mention must be made of violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk’s dazzling contribution to the dynamic finale of the “Sonata a cinque” (a sort of violin concerto that Handel presumably composed for Corelli in Rome in about 1707).

The Lancashire Sinfonietta does not have
the period instruments or pedigree of the AAM but its selection from the Water Music is lean and attractive. This disc also features the two most famous arias from Ariodante sung with unforced clarity by Jane Irwin. Perhaps this is not indispensable for hardcore Handel fans but these enjoyable performances are nicely judged and never less than pleasant.

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