Handel: Concerti Grossi / Brown, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
The present release is an outstanding recording of Handel’s Concerti Grossi. Founded in 1959 by Neville Marriner and a group of London musicians, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields has long been one of the world’s leading chamber orchestras. Marriner, initially a violinist and professor of violin at the Royal College of Music in London, became a crucially important figure for the orchestra. In the 1960s, thanks to his vitality and insistence on crisp rhythms, the ASMF set the definitive style for the revival of “ancient music”. Since then its repertoire has expanded from the baroque to the 20th century, and with a discography of over 500 recordings the ensemble stands preeminent amongst the chamber orchestras of the world. After studying in Rome, Brussels and Vienna, and with Henryk Szeryng in Paris, Iona Brown pursued a successful career as a solo violinist before becoming artistic director of the ASMF in 1974. Her long-lasting collaboration with Neville Marriner had a decisive influence on the artistic profile of the chamber orchestra. She died of cancer in 2004.
This is a reissue of the third recorded set of the complete Handel Concerti Grossi made by the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. The first Decca set was made in the 1960s under the Academy’s founding conductor Sir Neville Marriner; it was for many years the prime (rosetted) recommendation of the Penguin Guide for a recording of these concertos. The second ASMF set, for Philips, shared the conducting duties between Marriner and Iona Brown. This Hänssler set from the 1990s was directed entirely by Brown, and like the Decca set it included the additional parts that Handel wrote for wind soloists in some of the concerti to supplement the original scoring for strings.
This later set is in places very slightly quicker than the 1960s recordings, but the differences are minimal and generally the tempi remain much as before – certainly they avoid the Scylla of over-heavy emphasis to be found in many old-style interpretations, and the Charybdis of over-speedy and superficial traversal of the music which afflicts so many modern versions given with period instruments. As such the readings might perhaps be pejoratively dismissed as a ‘safe’ option – were it not for the fact that they bristle with life and enjoyment throughout, with lively rhythms and expressive cantilenas both taking turns in some of Handel’s most infectiously enjoyable music. Added spice is added with some judicious ornamentation at appropriate places.
-- MusicWeb International
Release Date: September 04, 2020
Catalog Number: HC17036
Label: Haenssler Classic
Number of Discs: 4
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Orchestra/Ensemble: Academy of St. Martins in the Fields
Performer: Iona Brown, Jonathan Rees, Pamela Thorby, Rebecca Austen-Brown, Philippa Davies, Ian Watson