Friday, May 22, 2015

Georg Friedrich Handel – 4 Concertos for Organ, Orchestra and Continuo op. 4

   Vinyl records are commonly associated with pleasure of home listening, sometimes with educational possibilities, and rather rarely this medium is connecting to scientific and archival purposes. After more than a century of phonographic industry, most people learn recording technology has much more functions and upon direct utilitarian use, record companies’ catalogues are great archive of world music. Now we can see how some ideas was developed in last century, from first ethnographic and archival recordings to publishing it in series designed for special use of academic and learning purposes. One of most significant chapters in the history of archival recording and publishing was the case of Archiv Production label.
   The history of Archiv Production started in postwar years. After the end of 2nd World War many historical instruments in Germany were destroyed, organs were often in bad condition and it was clear after the reconstruction many instruments would lost earlier qualities. Using recording technology was a chance for preserving the sound of historic instruments in original interiors. This project was connected to the idea of systematic recording whole catalogues of most significant antiquities of early music from mediaeval sacral music to the end of 18th century. First recordings of works by Johann Sebastian Bach were made in 1947 by Helmut Walcha on organ of Jakobkirche in Lübeck. These recordings were published in 1948 when Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft founded its subsidiary label Archiv Produktion. 

Georg Friedrich Handel – Organ Concertos op. 4 (1956)

   Fred Hamel, who was the head of Archiv Produktion label in years 1948 to 1957, organized the catalogue of recordings in 12 periods: I. Gregorian, II. High Middle Ages, III. Early Renaissance, IV. High Renaissance, V. Italian Seicento, VI. German Baroque, VII. West European Baroque and Rococo, VIII. Italian Settecento, IX. Johann Sebastian Bach, X. Georg Friedrich Handel, XI. German pre classical music, XII. Mannheim and Wien. These periods were subdivided into detailed categories, but not always completely presented. For example Bach’s catalogue covered all of his works, but in Handel’s seven categories strikes obvious lack of his operas and oratorios. And for many reasons it was main body of Georg Friedrich Handel’s musical work – these works made him successful composer in England.
   Although Handel was famous for large musical forms, oratorio and opera, organ concertos sometimes can look as a minor part of his output, or as only a fragment of instrumental music catalogue, in fact these 18 compositions are serious contribution in development of concerto form, in the history of organ as the concerting instrument. Especially Six Concertos for Organ, Orchestra and Continuo, Op. 4 belong to most significant works in 18th century music. Four of these concertos, No. 1 G Minor, No. 2 B Major, No. 3 G Minor and No. 4 F Major, were recorded December 16th to 21st 1956 by organist Eduard Müller with Concerting Group of Schola Cantorum Basiliensis under the direction of August Wenzinger. Sustainable interpretations of these recordings are designed to retain full compliance with the original text and Handel’s style. Technical merits and reliability of these performances make it a standard of modern baroque interpretations. Four stars as standalone album and as an element of the series.

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