GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL
Concertos 1-6 - complete
Karl Richter, Organist / Conductor
Concerto 1 in B-flat Major HWV 306
Concerto 4 in d minor HWV 309
Total time 79:49
Handel's Organ Concertos were written primarily as interludes in his Oratorios, the first two, according to Dr. Charles Burney, appearing with Deborah on March 17th and Esther on April 14th, 1733, both at the King's Theatre, Haymarket. "Two new Organ Concertos" were advertised for the Covent Garden performance of Esther on March 5th, 1735, of which socialite Mrs. Pendarves wrote to her mother ten days later, describing them as 'the finest things I ever heard in my life'. Thereafter it became commonplace to include organ concertos and, indeed, concertos for other instruments too. Madame Fiquet du Bocage relates in a letter dated April 15th, 1750, that the Organ Concertos were played 'either alone or accompanied by the orchestra'.
Two sets of Organ Concertos were printed during Handel's lifetime; two others posthumously. The first, entitled 'Six Concertos For the Harpsichord or Organ' was announced in the London Daily Post dated 4 October 1738. The title page included the statement: "These Six Concertos were Published by Mr.Walsh from my own Copy Corrected by my Self, and to Him only I have given my Right therein. George Frederick Handel." The second collection entitled 'A Second Set' was announced in the London Daily Post for November 8th, 1740.
The third collection imaginatively entitled 'A Third Set' was announced in the Public Advertiser for February 23rd, 1761, (Opus 7). Though the publication post-dated Handel's death by two years, it seems likely that Handel himself supervised the preparation of this edition..These concertos are perhaps less-known than the more familiar Opus 4 and the ubiquitous "Cuckoo and the Nightingale" (No 13).
In this programme we offer the complete Third Set, consisting of six concertos. That these concertos, as formally published, would not have been anywhere near as impressive as Handel's actual and personal renditions is quite clear from contemporary reports. Handel was a great improviser, and indeed these concertos began life as, and were built around Handel's own improvisations which would of course have differed with each performance. The concertos themselves, in their published form, leave ample scope for improvisation, which is actually called for in several instances.
Though few performers today would dare to claim parity with Handel in their improvisatory capabilities, we believe that Karl Richter comes very close. Some highlights in these recordings are the magnificent Alleluia Chorus in its organ version (Concerto 3), Richter's own improvisations including an original fugue, and the mounting tension of the Chaconne in number 5.
This is no thin, slimmed-down performance, but rather a full-bodied rendition with a gloriously prominent organ and - yes - pedals added wherever bass support is required. If you are looking for a glorious organ sound in the Grand Handelian Manner, this is it.