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Friday, June 2, 2017

George Frideric Handel - Keyboard Suites (Keith Jarrett)


Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • (01-04) Keyboard Suite No. 16 in G minor, HWV 452
  • (05-08) Keyboard Suite No. 15 in D minor, HWV 447
  • (09-12) Keyboard Suite No. 7 in B flat major, HWV 440
  • (13-16) Keyboard Suite No. 8 in F minor, HWV 433
  • (17-20) Keyboard Suite No. 2 in F major, HWV 427
  • (21-25) Keyboard Suite No. 4 in E minor, HWV 429
  • (26-29) Keyboard Suite No. 1 in A major, HWV 426

Keith Jarrett, piano
Date: 1995
Label: ECM



Keith Jarrett is probably better known to Gramophone readers as a jazz musician. Yet, in recent years he has recorded the First Book of Bach’s 48 on a piano (ECM, 10/88), the Second Book on a harpsichord (ECM, 9/91), and has furthermore appeared as an accompanist to the Danish recorder player, Michala Petri (RCA, 9/91). In this new release Jarrett has turned his attention to Handel, including in his programme four Suites from the collection published in London in 1720, another from the set published by Walsh as Vol. 2, c1733-4, and two (HWV447 and 452) which Handel composed c1738-9 for Princess Louisa, a daughter of George II.

Jarrett has painstakingly researched the project but has in one respect at least, arrived at an unfortunate conclusion. For in opting for a piano rather than a harpsichord he has prolonged a tradition of playing these pieces that has too frequently diminished their stature in the past. Whereas Bach’s counterpoint and his part-writing generally with its textural sostenuto, lends itself readily to performance on a modern piano, Handel’s altogether leaner textures and the improvisatory implications in his keyboard style on the whole do not. But then Jarrett himself would disagree, I suspect, since he fervently defends the choice of a piano in his interesting introductory note. Elsewhere, in a long introduction to the music by another hand, the German “Klavier” has been utterly misleadingly translated as “piano”, thereby clouding a crucial issue.

So there we are. My own feeling is that Jarrett has deprived us of what might well have been stylish, captivating and rhythmically buoyant performances of these Suites had he chosen a harpsichord. He didn’t and, in spite of what is undoubtedly accomplished playing, with clear articulation and a characteristically infectious feeling for dance-orientated movements, the result strikes my ears as unconvincing. At the very least, however, we should be grateful to Jarrett for his programme, which contains several pieces seldom included either in recordings or recitals of Handel’s keyboard music. For that and for his declared affection for music still sadly underrated, he deserves praise.

-- Nicholas Anderson, Gramophone

More reviews:


George Frideric Handel (23 February 1685 (O.S.) [(N.S.) 5 March] – 14 April 1759) was a German-born, British Baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with extremely popular works such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiah. His music was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.


Keith Jarrett (born May 8, 1945) is an American jazz and classical music pianist. He has also played harpsichord, clavichord, organ, soprano saxophone, drums, and many other instruments. Jarrett started his career with Art Blakey, moving on to play with Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis. Since the early 1970s, his success as a jazz musician has enabled him to maintain a parallel career as a classical composer and pianist, recording almost exclusively for ECM Records. Most of Jarrett's classical recordings are of older repertoire. He has recorded classical works for ECM by composers such as Bach, Handel, Shostakovich, and Arvo Pärt.


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