HANDEL: Organ Concertos, Op. 4 – Academy of Ancient Music /Richard Egarr, organ, harpsichord and direction – Harmonia mundi

by | Jun 10, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

HANDEL: Organ Concertos, Op. 4 – Academy of Ancient Music /Richard Egarr, organ, harpsichord and direction – Harmonia mundi HMU 807446 Multichannel SACD, 72 min. ****:

George Frederic Handel had a firm grip on the musical pulse of London Society, and the composition of his Organ Concertos Op. 4 was a calculated move on his part to assure his stature among the music-going public. His oratorios were immensely popular, and his renown in Europe as an organist allowed these concertos, when played in combination with the oratorios, to serve as the perfect vehicle to place him in the spotlight he so thoroughly desired. By all accounts a resounding success, apparently there was some rush to publish the concertos, resulting in errors that Handel was quick to rectify. He even contracted the London newspaper to carry an ad alerting the public to the unauthorized versions, and that he was in the process of having approved versions printed that would be available soon. These recordings are sourced from Handel’s authorized manuscript.

This is a well-recorded, extremely well-played and historically informed performance by organist/conductor Richard Egarr and the Academy of Ancient Music. The recording was made at St. Jude’s-on-the-Hill, and this excellent multichannel disc fully captures the acoustic of that superb venue. While the period-accurate organ used for these sessions has a lovely (and very English) tone, there is a certain “sameness” between the concertos. And – while not to diminish their individual charm or to imply any sense of monotony – taken as a whole, they are perhaps a bit much to digest in a single session. Handel had such a reputation as an organist par excellence; it would be an interesting exercise to hear these works performed on a larger instrument, not unlike what Handel was use to playing in Germany. Regardless, this set is highly recommended.

— Tom Gibbs 

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