Handel: Organ Concertos opp.4 & 7
Martin Haselböck, Jeremy Joseph (organ)
Martin Haselböck / Orchester Wiener Akademie (Alpha)
(scroll down for English review)
Recorded in the Goldener Saal of the Vienna Musikverein this January, this almost complete set of Handel’s organ concertos were made with two Vienna-based organists. Martin Haselböck, who also conducted the orchestra here, played the op.4 concertos, and the op.7 concertos were entrusted to Jeremy Joseph. Without the lockdown I doubt this set would be recorded in this venue at all. The house organ was a Rieger installed in 2011.
These concertos were written to serve as interludes to Handel’s oratorio performances, with Handel taking the organ part. As these were played in a theatre instead of a church, the organ used was of a much smaller size. Apart from op.7 no.1, all the concertos featured here were written for an organ with the pedal keyboard. So no blasting bass notes you’d have expected from Bach or others. Yet many music lovers were put off by the mass of sound from an organ, so these concertos might sound very pleasant to them.
I thought to myself, why the organ, and not the harpsichord? I guess the harpsichord was too soft as a solo instrument in a theatre. Handel left many spaces for improvisations (“ad libitum”). He might have wanted to show off his improvisatory skills, or more probably, he was too busy to compose everything.
There’s another recording by Too Koopman for comparison, or for those who don’t have access to Spotify. At first I thought the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra played with a more pleasing sound, but then the Viennese sounded more lively and flexible to me. Also, the venue acoustics did make a difference.