Notes and Editorial Reviews
The eagerly anticipated new release by Geneviève Soly, the artist who has almost single-handedly resurrected the marvelous baroque works of
Chaconne in G
, HWV 435a.
Sonatas in F & G
, HWV 427a & 579.
Suites: in B?, C (excerpts) & B?
, HWV 434, 443 & 440.
Partita in G,
GWV 145: Marche
Genevi?ve Soly (hpd)
ANALEKTA 29121 (52:34)
The title of this CD,
Handel in Darmstadt
, is somewhat misleading, as Handel never lived or worked in Darmstadt. Rather, he had a close friend in the person of Christoph Graupner (1683–1760), who assumed the post of
at the court of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1709. Circumstantial evidence indicates that Graupner and Handel became close friends during the short period of Handel’s employment at the Hamburg Opera (1705–06); the friendship continued unabated until Handel’s death in 1759. Graupner evidently held Handel’s music in high regard, so much so that he included 29 of Handel’s keyboard compositions in the so-called Darmstadt Harpsichord Book, along with works by Telemann and Sebastian Bach. On the present CD, all but HWV 579 are taken from that collection, which may have started life as a notebook during Graupner’s student years in Leipzig—it also contains a work of Bach’s predecessor and Graupner’s mentor, Johan Kuhnau.
Handel’s keyboard music has not lacked for worthy recordings; I’m thinking in particular of Colin Tilney’s superlative two-LP set of the complete suites on DG Archiv, sadly never rereleased on CD. The present CD is the logical continuation of Geneviève Soly’s excellent seven-volume series of Graupner partitas on the Analekta label. Checking the Archive, I was amazed to discover that not a single one has been reviewed by
—indeed, there are no listings at all for Soly, who has many other titles to her credit. What a pity, as she is unquestionably one of the top Canadian harpsichordists. Aside from her ongoing series of the complete organ concertos, also on Analekta, this is the first time she has recorded any of Handel’s solo keyboard music. Geneviève Soly can be counted on to provide solid, imaginative keyboard work, and this recording is no exception. Her performance of the famous Chaconne in G, for example, invites comparison with Trevor Pinnock’s classic version from 1983.
The choice of harpsichord—a copy of a double-manual German instrument of Mieke by Matthias Griewich—is a valid one and enhances the performances in unexpected ways. The initial sound is crisp and rather dry—each note begins with a distinct “pop” not unlike that of an Italian harpsichord. You might say it’s light years removed from the lush sounds of a late French harpsichord. Yet once your ears are acclimated, the instrument proves to be an ideal vehicle for the music: sonorous yet clear, with a stately bass line and reasonably singing treble. Contrasts between manuals and registers are unusually effective on this instrument, an example being the echo passages in HWV 579. I’m obliged to the recording engineer for giving the instrument ample acoustical distance—this is one very natural-sounding harpsichord recording. My only complaint is the rather skimpy timing. It would have been easy to squeeze another suite (or two) into the program. Highly recommended; my hope is that Soly will be recording the rest of Handel’s solo keyboard music in the very near future.
FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
Works on This Recording
Featured Sound Samples
Chaconne for Harpsichord in G (Handel)
Suite for Harpsichord in F (Handel): V. Fuga
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