Mercury Baroque Orchestra / Antoine Plante

Handel: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6

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Mercury Baroque, headquartered in Houston, is the first historically oriented Baroque orchestra in Texas, and from all reports the group has energetically promoted Baroque repertory where it hardly existed before. The label deserves credit for succeeding in bringing early music to the notoriously resistant midsection of the United States, and it is easy to imagine the fast, rather hyper interpretations of Handel's concerti grossi offered here making a positive impression in concert. On disc, they are less satisfying. This album, recorded at the downtown Houston concert complex that is home to Mercury Baroque's concerts, seems to be something of an afterthought to those concerts. There are no booklet notes or explanatory material other than a list of the musicians, and director Antoine Plante, one of a group of Montrealers who have moved south for their studies, himself serves as producer. This was a mistake, for the unpleasantly resonant sound does the strings no favors and picks up every bit of nonmusical noise in the house. Plante's fast and even moderate movements push the limits of reasonable speed in tense readings that keep the feet tapping but lose the graceful sense of timing and proportion in Handel's music, and the slow movements are sometimes dragged out and then resolved with overdone surprises. These are idiosyncratic Handel readings that may well appeal to those whose particular taste they fit, and you might sample the concluding Minuet from the Concerto Grosso in D major, Op. 6/5 (track 6), which is not very minuet-like, to see whether you're among that group.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Concerto Grosso No. 5 in D major, HWV 323
1 1:27
2 2:11
3 3:20
4 2:26
5 2:30
6 2:58
Concerto Grosso No. 4 in A minor, HWV 322
7 2:45
8 2:45
9 2:23
10 2:31
Concerto Grosso No. 10 in D minor, HWV 328
11 3:40
12 4:12
13 1:59
14 2:52
15 2:05
Concerto Grosso No. 2 in F major, HWV 320
16 4:24
17 2:30
18 2:29
19 2:34
Concerto Grosso No. 3 in E minor, HWV 321
20 1:42
21 2:04
22 2:26
23 4:43
24 1:22
Concerto Grosso No. 7 in B flat major, HWV 325
25 1:07
26 2:33
27 3:07
28 4:19
29 3:06
blue highlight denotes track pick