Various Artists

Essential Handel

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EMI's Essential Handel is a double-disc compilation of 38 tracks drawn from recordings that date between 1964 and 2007. This time period overlaps the analog and digital eras, so listeners should expect the usual variability of reproduction that's common to surveys of this nature. However, EMI provides a reasonable balance of volume and clear sound throughout, so playback is trouble-free. Perhaps more important to appreciating Handel's music is the mix of performance styles, which run between historically informed practice (i.e., the music is played on authentic instruments in a manner appropriate to Baroque methods) and more conventional modern playing, which was the norm prior to the dawn of the early music movement. Tastes in Baroque and Classical music have changed considerably since the 1960s, so most of the later recordings in this package reflect the adoption of the best scholarship and tend to sound streamlined in texture, more generously ornamented, and fairly brisk in tempo. However, there are a few heavy-textured arrangements here, such as the orchestrated version of the Sarabande in D minor for harpsichord (featured prominently in the film Barry Lyndon), and the spurious arrangement of the Suite in D major for trumpet, taken from Water Music, which is another misleading selection that should have been omitted. All told, though, this is a fairly good introduction to Handel's music, and with a little further research into the byways of Handel's works, it will serve the beginner well.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:49
2 3:22
Water Music Suite No. 1 in F
4 3:06
Organ Concerto No. 13 in F "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale"
5 3:51
6 3:27
Suite for trumpet and strings in D
7 1:50
8 1:45
10 1:06
11 1:30
12 8:57
Water Music Suite No. 2 in D
13 3:19
14 3:46
Water Music Suite No. 3 in G
15 2:49
16 1:04
17 4:21
Concerto grosso in C "Alexander's Feast"
18 3:27
Keyboard Suite No. 5 in E
19 4:23
20 5:45
Harp Concerto in B flat, Op. 4 No. 6
21 4:36
Oboe Concerto No. 1 in B flat
22 2:36
23 4:02
blue highlight denotes track pick