Handel: Organ Transcriptions by Walsh and Hook

Simone Vebber
La Bottega Discantica 314

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Transcriptions of Handel’s works for keyboard were intended to make his music widely available and were not made for recital purposes. Shorn of their original context they can seem like simple Gebrauchsmusik. While they do allow the listener to concentrate on Handel’s harmony and counterpoint, without the contrasts between solo and ripieno, or between different vocal groups, sequential repeats can get a bit wearisome. This selection includes two organ concertos, arranged by John Walsh, together with transcriptions by James Hook of two Coronation anthems, ‘Let Thy Hand Be strengthened’ and ‘The King Shall rejoice’. There are also successful arrangements of two choruses from Saul and Judas Maccabeus. Vebber plays on the organ in S. Maria Maddalena, Desenzano on Lake Garda. It includes some pipework from the church’s 17th-century organ by Matteo Cardinali, but was largely rebuilt in 1835-7 by the Serassi brothers. It provides a good range of contrasting stops though some of the big reeds tend to overpower and can sound anomalous, coming as a bit of shock when they substitute for the massed choir in the anthems. The accompanying booklet is in Italian only, and the website provides no translations or further information. Something of a curiosity, then, but the playing is rhythmically consistent, while maintaining good flexibility. The ‘Cuckoo and Nightingale’ concerto bristles with fun and, indeed, the whole recording exudes a strong sense of joie de vivre. Good for raising spirits in these trying times!

Noel O’Regan

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