Handel in Darmstadt

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LABELS: Analekta
WORKS: Chaconne in G, HWV 435a; Sonatas: in F, HWV 427a; in G, HWV 579; Suites, HWV 434, 440 & 443; Graupner: Partita in G – March
PERFORMER: Geneviève Soly (harpsichord)


The title of this disc requires some qualification: Handel was never employed in Darmstadt – indeed he may never have visited the city. The music though, along with pieces by Kuhnau, Telemann and Graupner, is contained in a manuscript housed in the Darmstadt University Library.

Many of Handel’s pieces were subsequently published and some of them, such as the G major Chaconne which is built upon the same bass line as Bach’s Goldberg Variations, will be familiar to Handel enthusiasts. The ‘Darmstadt Harpsichord Book’, as it is known, was copied by Samuel Endler, a contemporary of Handel and Graupner who brought him to the Darmstadt Court as a singer and violinist in 1723.

Canadian harpsichordist and scholar Geneviève Soly already has several discs of Graupner’s keyboard music to her name. In her Handel recital she proves herself, once again, as a fluent and stylish player with an intuitive feeling for youthful Handelian lyricism, melody and the spirited improvisatory sense of his music.


In short, this is playing of character, delicacy and charm. The Graupner connection is seldom far away as we find in the G major Sonata (HWV 579) in which Handel borrows a theme from the Darmstadt court composer, and in a ‘Marche en rondeau’ where Handel, starting as he meant to go on, so to speak, seems to have parodied a phrase from one of Graupner’s fine harpsichord Partitas. Nicholas Anderson