Handel in Italia

By Hamilton, Gregory | Sacred Music, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview
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Handel in Italia

Hamilton, Gregory, Sacred Music


Handel: Six Concertos for Organ, Op. 4. La Divina Armonia Ensemble, Lorenzo Ghielmi, conductor & organist. (Organ: Pradella/Santuario del Divin Prigioniero, Valle de Colorina, Italy, 2007). Passacaille CD-944.

Handel seems to be a composer who is claimed by many countries, to the English, he is the London composer of Messiah, the Royal Fireworks; to the Germans, he is claimed as German, being born in Halle, and receiving his early training in Hannover, from Friedrich Zachow.

However, equally important must be his early exposure to the Italian style, during his years in Florence and Rome, building his reputation as an opera composer. But while in Italy, Handel also absorbed the Italian concerto style, a style which is thoroughly explored in these wonderfully inventive organ concertos, op. 4. Although these concertos were premiered entr'acte in opera performances, there is an appropriate tradition in church performance, and they belong to the sonata da chiesa tradition, in the line of Corelli.

This recording is the most delightful to date of the many sets available of op. 4. Most evident at first listening is the most appropriate and creative sense of improvisation which Lorenzo Ghielmi brings to this music, not only in ornamentation, but also in the various segues, introductions, and cadences which are needed. If one looks at Handel's score, it is clear that the performer needs to supply added musical material to create a complete musical statement. Handel, perhaps more than Bach requires this "performance" aspect. This added creative element makes the difference between a prosaic interpretation and one that is truly brought to life. Lorenzo Ghielmi captures this Handelian spirit, and there is an improvisatory feeling to this aspect of the recording which brings the music to life.

Another engaging aspect of this recording is the sense of rhythm. There is a delightful sense of the underlying tactus as being solid, yet springy and flexible in weight.

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