Handel: Suites Set 1/6, 7, 8 (1720); Suites Set 2/7 & 8 (1733)

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LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Suites Set 1/6, 7, 8 (1720); Suites Set 2/7 & 8 (1733)
PERFORMER: Sophie Yates (harpsichord)
Sophie Yates plays selected works from two sets of suites published in 1720 and 1733 on a modern copy of a Ruckers double-manual harpsichord, much like one that Handel owned. Yates has written a lucid commentary, although the claim that this mixture ‘seems entirely in keeping with Handel’s own approach’ is historically tenuous and artistically irrelevant. Yates’s generalised description of the context of these suites is factually approximate and ignores the recent discovery that the unauthorised ‘Rogier of Amsterdam’ edition of the first set of suites was a pirate version produced by the London publisher John Walsh. It is also a pity that Chandos has not included the works’ HWV numbers. Yet small problems regarding documentation do not detract from these marvellous performances. The instrument sounds wonderfully crisp in the slightly reverberant acoustic of Forde Abbey in Somerset, and Yates’s playing is beyond reproach: each suite is elegantly poised and intelligently delivered, every strand in fugal textures is clearly delineated, and ornamentation is dazzling. It is no mean feat that Yates’s delightful performance of these suites provides a rewarding listening experience without a dull moment despite a total duration of over 70 minutes. David Vickers