WORKS: Concerti grossi, Op. 6
PERFORMER: Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 447 733-2
Handel’s Twelve Grand Concertos, Op. 6, represent one of the twin peaks of the late Baroque orchestral repertoire – Bach’s Brandenburgs are, of course, the other. Like all the greatest art they are susceptible to an almost infinite variety of interpretation and, for the same reason, there is something interesting and of value in each. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, playing modern instruments, favours a sprightly, crisply delivered, no-nonsense approach. Repeats are scrupulously observed and ornamentation is usually contained within the understood code of practice of Handel’s time.
Yet for all its hugely infectious joie-de-vivre I found something bland in the overall approach. It is rather as if certain basic decisions were taken at the outset and adhered to thereafter without reference to the needs of any particular movement.
Much the same applies to the Op. 3 Concertos in a new recording from the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. It is all very efficient, lively and refined, but seldom feels as if it is reaching the heart of the music. Sadly, too, the Academy has turned its back upon now not-so-recent research concerning the Sixth Concerto, which appears in the two-movement version that Handel had little or nothing to do with. Never mind, there are plenty of other things to enjoy, among them some pleasingly judged dance tempi. Nicholas Anderson