Organ Concertos, Opp. 4 & 7
Jeremy Joseph, Martin Haselböck (organ); Orchester Wiener Akademie
Alpha Classics ALPHA 742 164:20 mins (2 discs)
When Handel was writing his organ concertos during the mid 1730s and thereafter, he would have had some 25 or so string players at his disposal, as well as at least two oboe players and two bassoonists. He wrote them for performance during the intervals of his oratorios when he himself was the organ soloist. For this new recording of the two sets, Op. 4 and Op. 7, Martin Haselböck and Jeremy Joseph have assembled an orchestra of a size which would have been familiar to Handel. The large Rieger organ of Vienna’s Musikverein, on the other hand would certainly not have been.
Only one of Handel’s organ concertos, Op. 7 No. 1, requires the use of pedals; indeed, it begins with an impressive pedal solo. Surprisingly, the performance of this ambitious piece comes over less convincingly than those of the remaining works. Elsewhere, the Op. 7 concertos, all of which are entrusted to Joseph, fare well. The set contains some of Handel’s finest music, of which the darkly coloured opening Adagio with bassoons, followed by the joyful Allegro, derived from a movement in Telemann’s Musique de Table, to which Handel had subscribed (Concerto No. 4), and the Andante larghetto, consisting of a ground with 17 variations (Concerto No. 5), provide outstanding examples.
The six concertos of the earlier Op. 4 are assigned to Haselböck whose judiciously restrained organ registration carries conviction. In summary, there is plenty to enjoy here, with just tempos, mainly crisp articulation and a thoughtful approach to style.