Thursday, June 1, 2017

George Frideric Handel - Organ Concertos (Simon Preston; Trevor Pinnock)


Composer: George Frideric Handel

  • (01-04) Organ Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 4 No. 1, HWV 289
  • (05-08) Organ Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 4 No. 2, HWV 290
  • (09-12) Organ Concerto No. 3 in G minor, Op. 4 No. 3, HWV 291
  • (13-16) Organ Concerto No. 4 in F major, Op. 4 No. 4, HWV 292
  • (17-20) Organ Concerto No. 5 in F major, Op. 4 No. 5, HWV 293
  • (21-23) Organ Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, Op. 4 No. 6, HWV 294 (version for harp)
  • (01-06) Organ Concerto No. 7 in B flat major, Op. 7 No. 1, HWV 306
  • (07-10) Organ Concerto No. 8 in A major, Op. 7 No. 2, HWV 307
  • (11-14) Organ Concerto No. 9 in B flat major, Op. 7 No. 3, HWV 308
  • (15-18) Organ Concerto No. 10 in D minor, Op. 7 No. 4, HWV 309
  • (01-04) Organ Concerto No. 11 in G minor, Op. 7 No. 5, HWV 310
  • (05-07) Organ Concerto No. 12 in B flat major, Op. 7 No. 6, HWV 311
  • (08-11) Organ Concerto No. 13 in F major, HWV 295 - "Cuckoo and the Nightingale"
  • (12-16) Organ Concerto No. 14 in A major, HWV 296
  • (17-19) Organ Concerto No. 15 in D minor, HWV 304

Simon Preston, organ
Ursula Holliger, harp (21-23)
The English Concert
Trevor Pinnock, conductor

Date: 1984
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



To embark upon all the organ concertos in Handel's Op. 4 and Op. 7 means offering listeners another opportunity of enjoying this treasure house of delights, a store so entrancing that one is tempted to hear the whole lot straight off—and indeed I could hear them twice over without any difficulty. This opening set provides the six concertos of Op. 4 plus No. 14 from Op. 17. I will state at once that we have here a first-class product which will give endless pleasure and bear a good deal of repetition. So this is perhaps a decent moment to slip in a couple of comments on the debit side. First, I would have preferred to have the organ further forward, if it is so often to be modest in its registration. If there are good reasons why it should be placed at a distance, then the registration needs perking up and the soloist's right hand must not rely so much on legato playing. Secondly, this particular instrument has an unlovable bass to its diapason stop. When upper work is added, all is well on all counts. The organ, built by John Byfield in 1766, is in the Finchcocks collection. As the concertos proceed, the integration aspect becomes even surer, and by the time No. 14 comes along, the orchestra is wonderfully warm.

Concerto No. 3 is perhaps the point at which the magic really begins to take. From its elegant start, with solo and cello parts, to its brilliant final Gavotte, the texture is always interesting and the playing alive. Number 4 has some subtle and welcome pizzicato in the accompaniment and what sounds like a stowaway harp in the Andante. It bobs up again in No. 5—and then, lo and behold, takes the place of the organ in No. 6, with charm, precision and warmth. The harpist is Ursula Holliger playing a baroque harp of c1780. Number 14 is first class on all counts, and well balanced. Simon Preston maintains throughout a lively presentation, despite the production disadvantage mentioned earlier, and his ad lib, sections are always apt and interesting. My personal preferences in no way detract from the quality of his achivement.

Op. 7 contains more surprises than Op. 4 and some heart-warming moments when you would least expect them. For example, the Minuet and Gavotte at the end of No. 11, scored for orchestra alone (a strange way to end an organ concerto, you may think) turn out to be two of the most delightful movements Handel ever wrote, certainly the way they are played by the English Concert. Another aspect of this second set, well served in this recording, is the amount of ad lib. playing required of the soloist. Apart from cadenzas and random effusions from time to time, Handel twice indicates the need for an Adagio e fuga—in No. 9 and 15. The composer was giving the instruction to himself. It is another matter when someone else has to pick up the threads. Simon Preston's improvisations are completely assured and beautifully worked, with individual touches and part-playing of a high order.

I cannot praise enough the disciplined eagerness of The English Concert. They bring out all the fresh joy of Handel's music and their observations of his forte and piano contrasts make this device sound as though it had never been done before. Op. 7 was recorded at St John's, Armitage in Staffordshire, whose organ was built by Samuel Green in 1789-91. It comes into its own in Concerto No. 10, its solemnity mingling fraternally with two cellos and two bassoons in a deliberately learned conversation designed to make the brilliance of the subsequent D major movement all the more startling. Before the final movement, Simon Preston improvises a fugue, with pedals. His use of cornet solos, especially in the Ground Bass movement of No. 11 is very effective, but the organ occasionally produces some sour notes (the ad lib. fugue in No. 15 suffers from this). As I mentioned above, I would have liked the organ brighter and further forward, but this is a personal opinion and is not meant to diminish my warm feeling for this distinguished set.

-- Gramophone

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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.


Simon Preston (born 4 August 1938 in Bournemouth) is an English organist, conductor, and composer. Originally a chorister at King's College, Cambridge, he studied the organ with C. H. Trevor before returning to King's as organ scholar. He has played harpsichord (particularly earlier in his career) as well as organ. His many recordings include the complete organ works of J. S. Bach and the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony for Deutsche Grammophon. He has recorded Handel's complete organ concertos twice: with Yehudi Menuhin conducting the Bath Festival Orchestra and later on historical instruments with Trevor Pinnock directing The English Concert.


Trevor Pinnock (born 16 December 1946) is an English harpsichordist and conductor. He is best known for his association with the period-performance orchestra The English Concert which he helped found and directed from the keyboard for over 30 years in baroque and early classical music. Since his resignation from The English Concert in 2003, Pinnock has continued his career as a conductor, appearing with major orchestras and opera companies around the world.  He has also performed and recorded as a harpsichordist in solo and chamber music.


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