There is no shortage of good historical-instrument performances of Handel's concerti grossi from Op. 6, but this set of four, from German conductor Thomas Fey and his new Ensemble La Passione, deserves strong consideration. As he has in regard to Haydn, Fey seems here to adopt the overall goal of stripping away layers that have intervened across the years between modern audiences and the intensity a work would have had in its own time. His attacks are sharp, and his contrasts between quiet and soft passages are quite dramatic. This is all to the good in these concertos, which marry the terraced dynamics of the Corellian and Vivaldian concerto to Handel's gift for large-scale thinking and dramatic impact. They're meant to be something of a rip-roaring ride, and Fey and the Ensemble La Passione deliver one. The group excels in movements like the quiet but extremely tense final Allegro of the Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6/6, with its lurching chromatic part for the violins; the booklet notes by Bernhard Blattman explore the status of these concertos as exceptionally radical works among Handel's output, and Fey effectively brings out this quality. In some of the more courtly music, such as the Musette from the same concerto or the Menuet un poco larghetto final movement of the Concerto Grosso, Op. 6/5, in D major (track 6), he seems so interested in getting rid of Tchaikovskian notions of grace that he puts too much tension into the music. But in general this recording brings to Handel's instrumental music many of the exciting qualities that contemporary Italian groups have been infusing into Vivaldi.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Concerti Grossi (12), Op. 6, HWV 319-330|