Notes and Editorial Reviews
Concerto Copenhagen’s performances ooze abundantly with charm, wisdom and warmth. Passages for recorders, oboes and bassoon during the Largo of Concerto No 1 in B flat are played exquisitely. Courtly rhythms spring disarmingly in the Vivace of Concerto No 2 in B flat…Lars Ulrik Mortensen’s harpsichord continuo is imaginative in its support for the intimate dialogue between two cellos and Frank de Bruine’s beautifully judged oboe solo. The Minuet that concludes Concerto No 4 in F major is correctly an elegant dance…Mortensen’s fluent playing of the tricky quick organ solos in the concluding Allegro are articulated flawlessly. Such classy moments make this one of the most
endearing artistic interpretations of Op 3 in recent years...
-- David Vickers, Gramophone [6/2012]
Handel’s op. 3 concerti grossi have long been viewed unfavorably in some critical circles thanks to the reflection cast by the composer’s superior op. 6 collection. Yet the earlier works are thematically attractive, rhythmically varied, and expertly sequenced, despite being constructed piecemeal out of music composed over a long period of time. They’ve proven popular as well with modern listeners as a whole, and there’s no danger of their falling out of circulation—not with more than 15 recordings available in the current catalog.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen’s approach is straightforward, and inclining a bit to the decorous side. He phrases elastically in the adagio of the Third Concerto (the alternative solo flute version, rather than the usual oboe), but not as freely as Egarr/Academy of Ancient Music (Harmonia Mundi 2908292). Again, the opening
of the Sixth Concerto moves along with stately pride, but it misses the snap of Egarr’s trills that give it a swaggering air, or the delicacy and fleet pacing of Creswick/Northern Sinfonia (Naxos 8.553457). Next to these two versions, there’s a slight facelessness to this album, despite the virtuosic performances of Concerto Copenhagen.
Which isn’t to discount it; those listeners who find the likes of Egarr or Creswick too characterful will probably prefer these readings. There’s a fine sense of energy, movement and balance to timbres from Mortensen in the Fourth Concerto’s Ouverture, and as in the fugal allegro of the Fifth Concerto, all lines are clearly exposed, easy to follow. Then, too, if he doesn’t accent as sharply as several others, Mortensen does use longer-held notes as one among several methods of accenting—a period-accurate point, and providing a subtle variation to the standard phrasing heard on most other discs.
My own preferences still lie with Egarr in a period-instrument mood, and with Iona Brown/Academy of St. Martin (Hänssler 98.918) when not: unsentimental, brightly articulated, dance-like where required, but capable of great flexibility. But there’s much to be said in favor of this expertly performed recording.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Concerti grossi (6), Op. 3/HWV 312-317 by George Frideric Handel
Lars Ulrik Mortensen
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England
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