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Handel Concerti Grossi - The Avison Ensemble - Positive Feedback Online


01 January 2012
Positive Feedback Online
Bob Neill

 

One of the most beloved works of baroque music is Handel's Opus 6. Every baroque ensemble takes a crack at it-even William Christie's Les Ars Florissants, though sadly for some reason they only got through the first six concertos. Possibly a label change from Harmonia Mundi was going on at the time. Among the most successful traversals of the music, besides Christie's which is wonderfully smooth and French, have been Christopher Hogwood's spirited, dance-like version on Decca's Oiseau Lyre label with Boston's Handel & Haydn Society, which Hogwood led for a few years in the early nineties (their version of Handel's Opus 3 is king of that particular work), and Andrew Manze's fleet and flying elegant version with the Academy of Ancient Music on Harmonia Mundi. I don't know Trevor Pinnock's much admired outing with the English Concert on Deutsche Gramophone's Archiv label, though I would guess it's commendably unaffected, which is the Pinnock norm. Next on the stage will likely be Richard Egarr with the current Academy of Ancient Music, whose Opus 3 won its fair share of praise.

All of this to set the stage for the latest version, by Pavlo Beznosiuk and the Avison Ensemble on Linn Records. Beznosiuk's Handel features freshness, crispness, and brio in lieu of refinement. It feels more rustic than courtly. It is not crude or coarse - no one can make Handel sound crude. But Beznosiuk clearly wants to take the polish off this music, distinguish it from its baroque brother, Vivaldi's Opus 6, and bring out its natural energy. Once I adapted to it, I realized that no beauty is lost in this approach, it us just sturdier beauty than many of us Handel lovers are accustomed to. There is definitely a place for Beznosiuk's Handel among the favorites. Sound is transparent and well balanced. 


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