Harpsichord Suites

Hyperion Records Ltd. CDD22045
2 CDs
Recorded in 1994.
Originally released in 1995.
Reissued as a ‘Dyad’ in 2002.

- The Eight Great Suites (HWV 426-433)
- 6 Fugues or Voluntarys (HWV 605-610)
- Fugues: E major (HWV 612) and F major (HWV 611)

Paul Nicholson (harpsichord)

These two excellent Hyperion discs are essential purchases for anybody interested in Handel’s harpsichord music. The 1720 set of Handel’s Eight ‘Great’ Harpsichord Suites, commonly regarded as his finest keyboard works, are presented complete. There are also some fascinating short gems that are lesser known and may not included be in many collections, such as the delightful six ‘Voluntarys’ that may have been composed in or around 1716/17.

These interpretations are exemplary, with Nicholson demonstrating a variety of moods, and using dynamic contrasts that are beyond the ability of most ordinary harpsichordists. The booklet note by Wilfrid Mellers is informative about many things, but unfortunately does not illuminate us regarding Handel’s reuse of much of this music in later works (such as several fugues becoming choruses in Israel in Egypt). It is a pity that this reissue’s booklet does not tell the listener anything about the fine instrument Nicholson plays on these magnificent recordings.

Paul Nicholson’s recent retirement from the music profession in order to become a Priest is without doubt our loss and his future Parishioners’ gain. But these recordings, along with his stunning set of the organ concerti with the Brandenburg Consort (also on Hyperion, but still at full price), are a fitting testament to his considerable technical talent and interpretative warmth. I shall often return to his discs with undimmed enthusiasm, and do not expect them to be supplanted as my top choice.

Click here to read our exclusive interview with Paul Nicholson.

© David Vickers - December 2002

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