Handel: Suites for keyboard, Books 1 & 2 – excerpts

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Mirare
ALBUM TITLE: Handel
WORKS: Suites for keyboard, Books 1 & 2 – excerpts
PERFORMER: Anne Queffélec (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MIR 010
Bach recorded on the modern piano is frequently encountered in the CD catalogue, Handel rather less so. Indeed, the relatively modest list of recordings of Handel’s keyboard works makes new additions, on whatever instrument, something to welcome. The benefits of the piano’s dynamic range are certainly to be felt in the broader pieces, such as the Passacaglia that opens the collection and the G major Chaconne, where it provides colour and a persuasive architectural dimension. Less effective on the piano are the pieces where the textures are more evanescent, notably the preludes where Handel adopts the French ‘broken style’.

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Anne Queffélec’s approach is unapologetically pianistic while still observing aspects of Baroque performance practice: for example, she makes use of notes inégales (unequal notes) in articulation. She also has a feeling for the ‘big picture’ in some of the bigger variation-based pieces. Slower, more delicate movements are effective, notably the Air and Minuet of the D minor suite; unfortunately, the Gigue which they frame seems overly hard driven. The tendency to provide clipped phrasing in the faster pieces and the rather arch approach to the ‘Harmonious Blacksmith’ variations can be trying on repeated listening. Notwithstanding a sensitive recording, this selection only satisfies in patches. Jan Smaczny