Handel is best known to the wider public for his large-scale choral and orchestral works, but his organ music is equally precious. It was the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels who, diverting him from a career in the law, spotted his exceptional abilities on the instrument. By the age of seventeen, Handel was already the resident organist at the Domkirche in Halle, and he was later to defeat Domenico Scarlatti in a contest of virtuosity during his time in Rome. Martin Haselböck and the Orchester Wiener Akademie have recorded the Organ Concertos opp.4 and 7 in the prestigious Vienna Musikverein, world-famous for its acoustics. Haselböck plays on the hall’s imposing Rieger organ in what is one of its very first recordings. Inaugurated in 2011, it is the fourth organ in the Musikverein since the hall opened in 1870. With its considerable dimensions – much larger than the organs Handel used to play on – the instrument offers a tonal palette rich in contrasts.
The performances, while undoubtedly in good Baroque style (the period Wiener Akademie are excellent), offer the latent thrill of a large instrument in a large hall. If for some this might not seem the stuff of a definitive recording, it is certainly fun to listen to.