Handel's keyboard suites may be among his lesser-known works, but the so-called 'Eight Great Suites' of 1720 are true masterpieces of the genre. This volume, containing the first four, showcases his extraordinary versatility, imagination and contrapuntal skill, as well as his willingness to break with tradition. Handel skilfully weaves together a wide range of forms, including fugues, a toccata, Italianate airs and Baroque dances.
Notes & Reviews:
Recording information: Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England (08/14/2008).
Highly enjoyable piano disc
My initial reaction upon hearing this disc for the first time was, "Well, this is different. Why haven't I heard this before?" Then I realized this is Handel... on the piano, not the harpsichord (or organ).
The piano, with all its nuance and dynamics can lull a baby to sleep one moment, raise the hair on the back of your neck in the next, and shock a stone-dead sleeper back to life a second later. That's exactly what pianist Philip Edward Fisher is able to do with this group of Handel's first four Keyboard Suites.
The close recording picks up all of Fisher's nuance and with it, unfortunately, a distracting hiss that rises and falls with Fisher's attack on the piano. This, however, remains a highly enjoyable disc and I look forward to hearing the completion of the cycle.
Submitted on 06/04/10 by DanL
This recording features Philip Edward Fisher on a Steinway playing Handel Keyboard Suites No. 1 thru 4. Mr. Fisher definitely has a deft touch, although on initial hearing it seemed somewhat less than emotionally engaging, particularly in the Keyboard Suite No. 1 in A major. However, I found myself warming to his playing on successive listens over a period of several weeks.
Suite No. 1 in A major consists of a number of dance rhythms rather spritely played, but I garnered little more from it than that. Suite No. 2 in F grabs you by the ears and makes you stop what you are doing to just listen. While it certainly requires the same degree of intricate finger work as Suite No. 1, there is a depth of feeling in the first movement that gives way to a focused playfulness in the second movement, ending smartly in a rather maturely written closing allegro.
Suite No. 3 in D minor is rather a bit different than the first two Suites, less playful and more introspective and somber (particularly the 3rd movement), and it is here that Mr. Fisher’s playing technique became less of a focus for me and more of a means to an end – that being the evocation of the kind of feelings one might have while sitting inside on a rainy day looking out the window at a gray landscape, not satisfied with events but accepting of them, and pondering how things might have been different…if only…if only – very evocative and a treat to listen to.
Suite No. 4 in E minor begins with an amazing, and very technically demanding, fugue. This gives way to a darker and more gentle Allemande (2nd movement), a brighter Courante 3rd movement, a slow heartfelt Sarabande, and somewhat dark gigue.
Is this a disc that grabs you from the start and makes you feel like you have something special? Not for me. But after several repeated listens over a period of weeks, I find myself very pleased that it is a part of my expanding Handel library, with Suites No. 3 and No. 4 being particularly worthwhile additions.
Submitted on 09/07/10 by KlingonOpera