HANDEL: Six Piano Concertos Op. 4 – Matthias Kirschnereit, p./ Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss/ Lavard Skou Larsen – Deutschlandfunk/ CPO multichannel SACD 777 837-2, 67:32 [Distr. by Naxos] [10/29/13] ****:
As most readers probably know, Handel didn’t compose any piano concertos. In fact the composer wrote only the 16 Organ Concertos as his only keyboard concertos. These are six of the Organ Concertos that he composed for a single-manual organ without foot pedals. They comprise his complete Op. 4, and therefore some pianists—among them Mr. Kirschnereit—have thought of transferring them to the modern piano.
The results work out extremely well, bringing an interesting new repertory to us. The first five concertos all have four movements each, with just two movements for No. 6. They begin with a slow introduction to the first movement and the final movement is usually at a faster tempi and often based on a baroque dance form. The first concerto was performed with Handel’s ode Alexander’s Feast, and describes the musical might of St. Cecilia, the patroness of Catholic sacred music. The third, in G minor, has its own little cadenza in the first movement, and was later transcribed by the composer to be a solo organ work. The fourth concerto was performed with his oratorio Athalia, and No. 6 was originally a harp concerto, but when the original harpist wasn’t available for further performances, Handel changed it into an organ concerto.
All 16 Organ Concertos are on PentaTone Classics as four volumes of SACDs, with Opus 4 covering all of the first volume and part of the second. I actually find the piano concerto versions more interesting listening, and the surround sonics on both are excellent (though the PentaTones are only four channel). As the pianist in his notes states, each different instrument enables another facet of the original idea to resonate. Brazilian Larsen has been principal conductor of the German Chamber Academy of Neuss on Rhine since 2004.