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Happy Anniversary, G. F.

available at Amazon
Handel, "Great" Harpsichord Suites (vol. 1, 1720), J. Vinikour

(released on March 31, 2009)
Delos DE 3394
We hope that you spent at least part of your day thinking about Handel or at least listening to some of his music. The great keyboard player, composer, and -- yes -- businessman died on April 14, 1759, 250 years ago. We thank Dennis Mahoney for sending us a link to his article on the event, Handel Reborn (The Morning News, April 14), with some suggestions on the major works you might want to get to know better. Dennis's choices are all great ones, to which we add the following from the pile of recordings lately received at Ionarts Central, as a lagniappe.

This lovely disc of all eight of the "Great" harpsichord suites, published by Handel as a set in 1720, is performed by American harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, on a grand instrument tuned to Bradley Lehmann's Bach tuning. Handel's keyboard music is underplayed considering just how rewarding it is for the listener -- we have reviewed any of these suites live only once in the history of Ionarts. There is not really a pre-existing favorite recording to my ears, but Murray Perahia's take on some of these suites on the piano and Glenn Gould's flirtation with half of them at the harpsichord would also be recommended. As for complete versions, harpsichord over piano (like the quirky set by Andrei Gavrilov and Sviatoslav Richter, now digitally remastered) is a must, and Vinikour has the dexterity and interpretative sparkle to do a fine job of channeling the theatricality of Handel the performer. Most piano teachers tend to assign Bach and not much else for the Baroque portion of their students' repertory. It was not until I had some more freedom in choosing what I played as a graduate student that works by Handel, Rameau, Couperin, and Byrd found their way into my practice sessions. The Handel suites are even more varied in tone than those of Bach, since Handel was much freer with the form of the suite and his suites do not consist only of dance movements. So do yourself a favor and listen to this economically priced 2-CD set, and better yet print out some of the scores and give them a whirl at your own keyboard.


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