George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Suites for Harpsichord - volume 1
Suite in D minor, HWV 428 [24:52]
Suite in A, HWV 454 (c.1705) [13:58]
Suite in E minor, HWV 438 [8:07]
Suite in C, HWV 443 (before 1707) [27:12]
Suite in G minor, HWV 439 [17:15]
Suite in G, HWV 441 [21:49]
Suite in E minor, HWV 429 [16:30]
Suite in E, HWV 430 [14:50]
Gilbert Rowland (harpsichord)
rec. Holy Trinity Church, Weston, Hertfordshire, England, 5-8 July 2010.
DIVINE ART DDA 21219 [74:57 + 71:34]
Suites for Harpsichord - volume 2
Suite in G minor, HWV 432 [24:01]
Suite in D minor, HWV 437 (C.1706) [13:58]
Suite in F, HWV 427 [9:34]
Suite in F sharp minor, HWV 431 [10:44]
Suite in B flat, HWV 434 [9:05]
Suite in G, HWV 450 (before 1707) [13:49]
Suite in C minor, HWV 444 [10:16]
Suite in F minor, HWV 433 [14:19]
Suite in D minor, HWV 436 (?1726) [16:19]
Chaconne in G, HWV 435 (revised 1726) [12:15]
Gilbert Rowland (harpsichord)
rec. Holy Trinity Church, Weston, Hertfordshire, England, 9-12 July
DIVINE ART DDA 21220 [67:22 + 66:58]
In the best possible sense, Handel was never predictable.
To take his keyboard suites as an example: whilst one lasts a mere eight
minutes, the next runs to 27; movements number typically five or six,
but others have as few as three; the dance forms of tradition rub shoulders
with innovative preludes, sonatas and adagios. For the four-movement
suite HWV 427, dances are even dispensed with altogether, whilst the
finale of HWV 443 is a chaconne with an astonishing 49 variations on
one of Handel's most popular melodies.
In all, there are around 25 extant keyboard suites. Two collections
were published during Handel's lifetime, the 'Eight Great Suites' of
1720 and the six suites comprising the 'Second Collection' of 1733.
The rest are known rather modestly as the 'Miscellaneous Suites'. Dates
of composition are sometimes conjecture, but range from the first decade
of the 18th century to as late as 1739.
These are the first two of likely three double-disc volumes from Scottish
harpsichordist Gilbert Rowland, in marvellously detailed productions
from Divine Art. Rowland's complete recording of Antonio Soler's sonatas
on 13 CDs for Naxos was rightly met with critical acclaim. This cycle
is destined to find similar degrees of approbation. Handel's music is
so overwhelmingly communicative and all-round glorious that a performer
of Rowland's calibre could almost get away with playing in gloves. In
fact, he combines amazingly graceful virtuosity with original filigree
and huge experience to give readings that all listeners should respond
to. The two-manual period replica harpsichord (1750) has a sweet, rounded
sound and action that react superbly to Rowland's texturising touch
and Handel's illuminative imagination.
Rowland's own notes for the trilingual booklets provide a paragraph
or two of good detail in limpid language on each work. Though these
sets were recorded two years apart, Rowland et al
used not only the same venue but recorded at the same time of year,
giving audio that is consistent as well as generally pleasing.
Those ill-advisedly intending to invest in only one volume will have
to choose between turquoise and mauve - that is, on the basis of cover
colour, because both items are equally excellent in all other regards.
Each album ends aptly in memorable style: volume 1 with the Suite in
E, HWV 430, the last movement of which throws up one of Handel's most
popular tunes, known as the 'Harmonious Blacksmith' (albeit not to Handel).
Volume 2 meanwhile finishes with the well-known and emphatic Chaconne
in G - self-evidently not a suite but published in the 1733 collection.
Contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
See also review of Volume 1 by Brian