Suites for Keyboard: Daria van den Bercken

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Handel/Mozart
LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: Suites for Keyboard
WORKS: Handel: Suite in D minor, HWV 428; Suite in F, HWV 427; Suite in G minor, HWV 432; Mozart: Allemande from Suite ‘Dans le style de GF Haendel’, K399
PERFORMER: Daria van den Bercken
CATALOGUE NO: 88765418832

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For more than 30 years the Sviatoslav Richter-Andrei Gavrilov recording of Handel’s Great Suites has pretty much had the field to itself when it comes to performing Handel on the piano. Belatedly, though, the competition is stirring. Lisa Smirnova’s 2011 ECM recording (reviewed January 2012) balanced dazzling pianism with furtive nods to period practice; now Daria van den Bercken enters the fray. She might not quite posses Smirnov’s scintillating playfulness, even if the F major Suite’s first Allegro has sparkle to spare, but there’s a quiet, tasteful authority that impresses. Indeed, the F major Suite is a conspicuous success, the opening Adagio a limpid, translucent soliloquy, the concluding fugue engagingly innocent and candid. And it’s artfully placed between two imposing minor-key Suites, affording respite from the glowering clash of the Titans.

Van den Bercken’s well-judged sense of fantasy sets the D minor winsomely on its way but the Presto finale is a little sober, while the G minor Suite (the bruiser of the set!) is problematic – the French Ouverture is a touch prosaic while its concluding Passacaille is rather ponderous. Three postscripts include a G major Chaconne despatched with deliciously fleet fingerwork; while, to finish, Mozart pulls on his best Handelian bib and tucker for a spot of intriguing pastiche in an Allemande.

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Paul Riley