Van Diemen’s Band, Martin Gester
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When I spotted this CD of the Handel opus 3 Concerti Grossi on BIS directed by Martin Gester, I wondered if this was the companion album to the opus 6 set by the same director which I had reviewed in 2008, and which has become my favourite account of the Handel opus 6. And indeed it is! The ensemble may have changed to the punningly named Van Diemen’s Band, but the light, idiomatic touch is the same. Gester’s readings are full of insights and surprises – sometimes tempi are markedly slower than anticipated – but nothing is left to chance here in these wonderfully considered interpretations. I have loved these and the opus 6 concerti, ever since investing as a child in the wonderful Academy of St Martin in the Fields’ vinyl boxed set, and apart from the move to period instruments and HI performance, it is the innate musicality of these performances which appeals to me most. It is no mean trick to combine impeccable preparation and spontaneity, and this is a feature shared by my much-loved ASMF accounts and these lovely performances. Somebody once shrewdly observed that all Baroque music is essentially dance music, and this is certainly the case here as the stringed and wind instruments dance through their lines, bringing some of Handel’s finest instrumental music vividly to life. So now I have a new favourite account of Handel’s opus 3 Concerti Grossi.
D. James Ross