English Early Keyboard Music:
Georg F Handel

Handel wrote a great deal of music for harpsichord.

I was very taken with some of the later suites and recorded a number of them before wondering how many suites Handel had written which were suitable for piano.

The well-known suites are in two batches:

First set: 1720 (actually released in a pirated edition across Europe):
Suites 1-8, HWV numbers 426-433, sometimes known as the 8 'Great Suites'.

Second set: 1730, and reissued in a revised version in 1734; mainly written before 1706.
Suites 9-16. HWV numbers 434-441
There is also an interminable Chaconne with 65 variations; HWV 442, following on from the last piece of the second set.

There are about a dozen other one-off suites which are worth looking at from various parts of his life. Most of the scores are available from IMSLP.

The suites in the 2 main batches are very attractive; they mix the keyboard character of South Germany and Italy within a French style and structure. Many sections are dance movements, especially in the second set. A number of the Set 1 suites begin with improvisatory preludes, some of which are difficult for the non-professional to bring off effectively.

My recommendation: Start with the later suites until you're used to the style; then gradually work backwards. The other odds and ends are worth dipping into.

The more intricate and advanced pieces are mainly in set 1. On the modern piano, some sections can be thinned out a little, which increases the clarity. And do not touch the sustain pedal!

My recordings of Handel's suites are on these discs:

... cd19 (16)
... cd19a (9, 10 & 14)
... cd19c (15, 11, 13, 12)
... cd20 (3, 4)

Suite 6 is in progress.

ND / Diversity Website / Apr 2021

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