Handel: the Eight Great Suites

Driver, D. (2014) Handel: the Eight Great Suites. [Audio]

Abstract

George Frideric Handel's eight Great Suites performed by Danny Driver (piano): Suite No 1 in A major HWV426; Suite No 2 in F major HWV427; Suite No 3 in D minor HWV428; Suite No 4 in E minor HWV429; Suite No 5 in E major HWV430; Suite No 6 in F sharp minor HWV431; Suite No 7 in G minor HWV432; Suite No 8 in F minor HWV433; Suite in C minor 'Partita' HWV444; Suite in E minor HWV438; Chaconne in G major HWV435. Danny Driver’s recordings of CPE Bach’s keyboard works have been much admired: praised by critics as deeply stylish and revelatory accounts of eighteenth-century works on a modern piano, with Driver’s impeccable pianism constantly present. Now he turns to Handel’s ‘Eight Great Suites’, largely written when the composer was resident in Cannons, near London. The ‘Great Suites’ are an inspired, idiosyncratic amalgam of Gallic courtly dances, Italian vocal lyricism, Teutonic counterpoint and robust English tunefulness. Whereas Bach’s keyboard suites follow broadly similar patterns, centred on the traditional French dance sequence of Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue, Handel’s are unpredictable, with no two suites alike in the number and ordering of their movements. There are fugues, arias with variations, Italian-style sonata movements, even (in No 7) a Passacaglia. Compared with the elaborate finish of Bach’s suites, Handel’s often give the impression of written-down improvisations. In the fantasia-like Preludes, especially, Handel hints at his own genius as extemporiser, while leaving plenty to the performer’s own imagination.

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