Getting A Handle On Handel A Pair Of Classical Plus One Jazz Recordings
George Frideric Handel
Vol. 1 Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4
Vol. 2 Nos. 5, 6, 8, 11 and 13
Music of Handel
Royal Fireworks Music
Jazz Arrangements of George Frideric
Jacques Loussier Trio
Review by Karl Lozier
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SACD Number: PentaTone 586 103 & 5186 104
CD Number: Telarc Jazz 83544
Once again we are continuing our journey through PentaTone Classics (distributed by Telarc) of recordings done almost thirty years ago, twenty-eight in this instance. This series was recorded with the DSD system in four-channel sound with the goal of releasing as quadraphonic (four-channel) LP recordings. For a variety of reasons that was not done and the master tapes have been carefully stored for about a quarter of a century. To retain original thinking and philosophy they are released now in the original
four-channel format in SACD/CD hybrid sound.
Here I am treating the two volumes of the Handel Organ concertos as if they were one recording. There is absolutely no difference between the two recordings other than the musical selections. Recording quality is identical, conducting consistently fine and the artist's performance also consistently top notch. The organist is for most people the primary attraction in these delightful organ concertos. The traditional competitors for baroque organ playing honors are usually Simon Preston, Karl Richter and George Malcolm. E. Power Biggs is sometimes considered but is a bit controversial, though I did retain his performance of Handel's concertos when I downsized my collection of LPs. If memory serves, his set used an organ formerly used by Handel. In any event, as very ably demonstrated here, Daniel Chorzempa is easily the equal of any the aforementioned performing artists in my not so humble opinion.
Chorzempa uses a two manual Dutch organ tuned in the Wesckmeister 11 temperament with pitch at 420 Hz =
A'. This supposedly tunes it similarly to Handel's single manual Italian type organ. Jaap Schroder's conducting is almost in perfect harmony with Chorzempa's playing. Additionally the instrumental accompaniment is by a slightly, but significantly larger group than original scoring calls for, the Concerto Amsterdam. The combination of all three results in truly first-rate music making. I do not believe any other performances can be significantly better in any respect. I cannot imagine any purchaser having regret about purchasing either or both of these recordings. There is little to choose one over the other but personally I get an extra kick out of the beautiful but subtle echo effects of the "Andante allegro" movement of Concerto No. 6 of volume 2.
It is easy to find Handel's Organ Concertos enjoyable. There have been a total of at least sixteen of his organ concertos published. They tend to be more melodious, imaginative and varied than music written by some of the baroque composers. It is ironic that these ever-popular organ concertos directly grew out of pre-program entertainment by Handel for performances of his beloved oratorios. Try these concertos if you are not truly familiar with them. Audiophiles should not purchase these recordings if looking for room shaking organ bass. The organ here is treated as a delightful versatile and even sprightly musical instrument. Relax and enjoy it. The recording quality is truly of very high quality if not quite the highest possible. There are no negative aspects that listeners could have concern or complaint regarding. Very highly recommended and my copies will be getting continued playing time if any stronger hint is required.
As for Music of Handel; Jazz Arrangements of George Frideric Handel Water Music,
Royal Fireworks Music, and Passacaglia...
Jacques Loussier's arrangements and performances by his Trio of various classical composers have become very popular, well known and seemingly never ending - much to the delight of his many fans. I have reviewed a fair number of them and listened to many more. Often I have been pleasantly surprised or amused by what his arrangements accomplished.
Listening to this recording as simply a new Loussier cool jazz recording with Jacques leading the way with his familiar piano playing, things were fine for me personally. I seemed to most appreciate this recording when Loussier and Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac with his double bass were playing almost as a duo. Somehow Andre Arpino's contribution on the drums was not always as skillfully integrated into the arrangements as usual. There is a very distinct possibility that jazz arrangements of Handel's music are not as appreciated by me as with other composers. No matter the reason, at times I could not figure out what the "starting point or melody was". In other words, what was being arranged? As usually played, Handel's Water Music is a real favorite of mine. With this jazz recording I preferred listening to the
Royal Fireworks Music. I cannot figure out if that makes any sense. Any answers would be appreciated.
Though not familiar to me, the Passacaglia was particularly interesting and enjoyable.
Meanwhile the legions of fans of the Loussier trio will be enjoying their newest album. This latest album may be just a touch cleaner and clearer than ever. Sound quality does not get much better than that. Enjoy it.