WORKS: Suite No. 1; Suite No. 2 Suite No. 3; Suite No. 4; Suite No. 5
PERFORMER: Martin Souter (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 003 DDD
Martin Souter plays Handel’s first five suites for harpsichord on a 1720 instrument recently bequeathed to the Bate Collection at Oxford University; it may even be the very instrument featured in Philippe Mercier’s famous portrait of the composer. 1720 was the year these suites were composed and they are well projected in these skilful performances, though, in common with many harpsichord recordings, the level is high and the sound can become close and unrelenting, while lacking somewhat in atmosphere.
Handel was a great master of keyboard music, as both performer and composer; but he was an improviser and therefore relatively little of his work has survived. The present set of suites, indeed, represents his most significant contribution to the keyboard literature of his own day. In that sense this recording is an important document; while the performances may lack the last degree of panache and vitality, they are always well judged. For Handel was the ultimate cosmopolitan: a German composer who came to live in London to write Italian operas. In his keyboard suites he deployed the full range of styles available to him, and he did so with consummate skill and imagination. Terry Barfoot