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A Selection from Grand Concertos Op. 6
Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 1 in G major, HWV319
Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 8 in C minor, HWV326
Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 6 in G minor, HWV324
Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 10 in D minor, HWV328
Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 5 in D major, HWV323
Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 11 in A major, HWV329
This double hybrid SACD set is the second recording by Al Ayre Español and its conductor Eduardo López Banzo for Challenge Classics, and features a selection of six of Handel’s Twelve Grand Concertos, opus 6, otherwise known as Concerti grossi. Last year their debut release for the label was a highly-regarded disc of sacred cantatas by José de Nebra.
The musical director Eduardo López Banzo was born in Zaragoza in 1961. In the operatic field he is considered to be one of the most important specialists as regards Handel’s music for theatre. Eduardo López Banzo founded Al Ayre Español in 1988, and was awarded the Spanish National Music Prize in 2004, thanks to more than twenty years of musicological rigueur and performance excellence.
Handel’s Concerti grossi, Op.6 or Twelve Grand Concertos, HWV 319-330 were first published in London by John Walsh in 1739. Taking the older concerto da chiesa and concerto da camera of Arcangelo Corelli as models, rather than the later three-movement Venetian concerto of Antonio Vivaldi favoured by Johann Sebastian Bach, they were written to be played during performances of Handel's oratorios and odes. Despite the conventional model, Handel incorporated in the movements the full range of his compositional styles, including trio sonatas, operatic arias, French overtures, Italian sinfonias, airs, fugues, themes and variations and a variety of dances. The concertos were largely composed of new material, and are amongst the finest examples of the baroque concerto grosso.
“The opening [Concerto Grosso] No 1 in G major establishes the character of these interpretations by Eduardo López Banzo's ensemble Al Ayre Español: the perfectly poised gait of the opening movement, with bounteous viols offering a richly textured timbre” The Independent, 14th July 2012 ***
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“They must surely be one of the finest baroque ensembles now in existence.” Early Music News
“This is exemplary baroque string playing, and at its most tasteful.” The Consort
The Avison Ensemble is an outstanding period instrument orchestra who has been performing together for nearly 25 years. The Ensemble, directed by Pavlo Beznosiuk, gives a fresh and insightful performance of George Frideric Handel’s masterpiece Concerti Grossi Opus 6.
This recording encompasses Handel’s complete Concerti Grossi Opus 6, a work widely thought to be the definitive example of the concerto grosso and one of the composer's greatest contributions to the Baroque period.
Under the masterful direction of Pavlo Beznosiuk the Ensemble’s enviable precision and musical rapport is evident.
The period ensemble creates dazzling colour, the tones and textures bringing this popular Baroque masterpiece to life.
Formed in 1985, the Ensemble has attracted great critical acclaim. The Guardian commented: “I’d take the Avison Ensemble over Karajan…any day”.
The Avison Ensemble comprises some of Europe's leading baroque musicians, including artists from The Hague, Germany, France, Austria and London, with international soloists from all over the globe.
Pavlo Beznosiuk, the UK's foremost baroque violin virtuoso, is in demand as a soloist and orchestral leader performing regularly with the Academy of Ancient Music and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
“...a compendium of Handel's musical interests, at times blatantly operatic in style and material (Nos 7 and 8), occasionally as grave as the English oratorios (No 5), often dazzlingly Italianate (Nos 2, 6 and 10). Performed without the optional woodwind, this is a vivacious, highly detailed set.” The Independent on Sunday, 4th July 2010
“The Avison’s accounts under Pavlo Beznosiuk have a natural, easy virtuosity that will endear them to purists” Sunday Times, 8th August 2010 ***
“This fine ensemble, founded to investigate the previously unknown music of the Newcastle composer Charles Avison, takes on his London contemporary with tremendous panache...Pavlo Beznosiuk's virtuosity had me on the edge of my seat in the andante variations and the final allegro. But the Ensemble, too, plays with great tenderness.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2010 *****
“Beznosiuk is an excellent judge of textures and tempi, and his leadership of the concertino group…is authoritative and nuanced...I suspect that the Avison Ensemble's set shall remain rewarding long after the novelties of more precocious approaches have faded.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2010
“...this set has so much character, insight and understated drama that I felt as if immersed in a vast 12-act opera without words. Magnificent!” International Record Review, October 2010
BBC Music Magazine
Orchestral Choice - September 2010
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This triple Hybrid SACD set features all twelve of George Frideric Handel’s Concerti Grossi opus 6. It is performed by one of the most acclaimed period instrument groups on the current musical scene, the Combattimento Consort, Amsterdam under the direction of its founder Jan Willem de Vriend.
The conductor Jan Willem de Vriend’s international profile has leapt recently with a muchadmired set of Beethoven Symphonies for Challenge (CC72550). Having studied the violin at the conservatories of Amsterdam and Den Haag, de Vriend went on to found the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam in 1982. In his capacity as violinist and artistic director of this ensemble he has conducted numerous concerts and opera productions both in the Netherlands and abroad. The Consort’s repertoire concentrates on the period 1600-1800, not only familiar works but also lesser-known masterpieces, which are often only available in manuscript form. In 2007 they presented Arminio, Biber’s only surviving opera. Over the years, they have developed a distinctive style of playing, which has even come to be known as the “Combattimento School” of performance.
The creative riches of structure and the broad diversity of styles that Handel exhibits in the 12 Concerti Grossi opus 6, HWV319-330, has led to them being considered alongside Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos as one of the great monuments of Baroque instrumental music. First published in London in 1739, they take the works of Arcangelo Corelli as models, and are scored for a concertino trio of two violins and cello, alongside a four-part string orchestra and harpsichord continuo.
“the use of modern strings and woodwind is by no means a disadvantage because there are some salient aspects of these performances that are closer to historically informed practice than those one hears from some period-instrument sets...Combattimento Consort Amsterdam's pursuit of dramatic conviction and rich textures is commendable.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2013
“Performances from the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam are excellent throughout in this Handel Op. 6, and my interest was held at every point. The ensemble and soloists relish the gorgeous suspensions and dissonances in these works, and Handel’s little quirky little moments of general shaking and ornamentation are done marvellously.” MusicWeb International, February 2013
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Handel - Twelve Grand Concertos
Composed during a few hectic weeks in the autumn of 1739, the set was partly intended by Handel – renowned mainly as a writer for singers and as an organist – to reinforce his stature as an instrumental composer.
The result is music that exhibits a great variety of musical thought and invention, here interpreted by the highly acclaimed Polish ensemble Arte dei Suonatori making their third recording for BIS. The recordings are the fruit of a regular collaboration between the ensemble and French conductor Martin Gester, focusing on the baroque concerto.
“This Polish ensemble, little recorded so far, plays them splendidly - 16 technically assured period strings, coloured by harpsichord or organ continuo and a pretty active archlute. The ensemble is intensely expressive, from the stark open-string ending of the No. 6 Largo, through a wall of sound in the Polonaise of No. 3, to the witty fugue in the opening movement of No. 7.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2009 *****
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