Richard Egarr

G.F. Handel: 8 'Great' Suites for Keyboard, HWV 426-433

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It's hard to understand why Handel's suites for harpsichord are less often played than suites by Bach, Couperin, or Rameau; they are quite recognizable as Handel, and they have the grand quality that hat has made much of his music so perennially popular. Published in 1720, these suites marked Handel's London debut as a keyboard composer. Harpsichordists have found the keyboard writing awkward, which may account for their neglect; they have been more often performed by pianists, in thoroughly ahistorical ways (jazz pianist Keith Jarrett has been among their champions), than by harpsichordists. Thus they may just have been waiting for this release by veteran harpsichordist Richard Egarr, playing a copy of a Ruckers harpsichord. Everything falls into place here. Egarr turns the awkwardness into power, offering sweeping drama in the opening preludes and crisp, deep harmonic motion in the Allegros and faster dances. Handel cheerfully mixes Italian and French styles in these suites, and as usual he does so logically, releasing the tension in the moderately heavily oriented French dances in brilliant passagework. Egarr catches all these balances very nicely, and he gets the imposing pomp of the opening preludes. The recording environment of Britain's Potton Hall is ideal. Many listeners will find that his recording fills a major collection hole.

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