Handel: Organ Concertos, Op. 7; in F, HWV 485; Fugue in G minor, HWV 264; Chaconne in G, HWV 442 & F, HWV 295

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Organ Concertos, Op. 7; in F, HWV 485; Fugue in G minor, HWV 264; Chaconne in G, HWV 442 & F, HWV 295
PERFORMER: Richard Egarr (organ); Academy of Ancient Music
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 807447-48 (hybrid CD/SACD)


Anyone familiar with Richard Egarr’s perky, exuberantly-ornamented take on Handel’s Op. 4 concertos will know what to expect from this sequel. But stretching the six concertos of Op. 7 over two discs has allowed room for some enticing extras – including a deeply-felt account of the densely-poignant G minor Fugue, HWV 264, and an elegantly-turned reading of the massive G major Chaconne, HWV 442 (whose harmonic profile exercised JS Bach even more massively in the Goldberg Variations). 

Best of all, though, is arguably the most alluring ‘Cuckoo and the Nightingale’ on disc, a performance rich in scintillating ‘cuckooing’, gurgling ‘nightingalerie’, and gleeful delight. Here, and throughout Op. 7, the Academy of Ancient Music are intimate conversationalists, alert to every nuance of Egarr’s abiding wit and pungent repartee. 

The ‘ad libitum’ movements, Egarr insists in the notes, are genuinely improvised, ‘real time, spontaneous creations’ – par for the course in an approach where everything sounds newly-minted, bursting with vitality and instinct with risk. Sometimes, though, there are stylistic jerks as Buxtehude-like stylus phantasticus combines with Purcellian counterpoint, and eyebrows will certainly shoot heavenwards at the start of the D minor Concerto’s third movement where a couple of dissonant thwacks herald a Day-Glo cadence.


The chamber organ, (housed in Handel’s Parish Church), is quite magnificent, vividly captured in Harmonia Mundi’s SACD, and wonderfully exploited by Egarr’s highly fertile imagination – the collision of courtly panache and rustic musette in the Finale of Op. 7 No. 2 is particularly appealing. Paul Riley