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Hyperion Records

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Statue of Lord Macaulay (1868, detail) by Thomas Woolner (1825-1892)
Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge
Track(s) taken from CDA68041/2
Recording details: April 2013
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: May 2014
Total duration: 11 minutes 58 seconds

'The scalic flourishes of the First Suite’s Prelude instantly reveal Driver’s nimble fingerwork, meticulous control over dynamic accentuation on key harmonic features and judicious use of the sustain pedal. The rippling D minor arpeggios of the Prelude to Suite No 3 transfer to the piano thrillingly … most of Handel’s French-style intricate dance movements are played with dignified tenderness: the consecutive allemandes and courantes always have a delicate balance between cantabile warmth in the elegant upper melody, softly precise inner details and a lightly flowing bass-line. The quick Fugue that launches Suite No 4 in E minor has a sparkling clarity that any eminent Baroque specialist keyboardist would be pleased with … an engagingly post-historical approach' (Gramophone) » More

'Handel the organist and improviser features just as strongly in these suites as Handel the exquisite miniaturist and inspired master of counterpoint. Driver brings to it all a winning sense of style, crisply ornamented, sensitively drawing on the piano’s tonal potential for shadings of colour and alert to the rhythmic energy that Handel can generate.To hear in succession the tiny contemplative adagio of the Second Suite followed by its bright fugal allegro and then the quasi-improvisatory organ-like prelude of the Third Suite is to appreciate just how compellingly Driver intuits the music’s rich diversity' (The Daily Telegraph) » More

'When performed with such commitment and expressive vitality, Handel’s suites are worthy to be placed alongside the finest, and these performances by Danny Driver are a welcome addition to the discography … Driver's impeccable technique, which is in abundant display here, with immaculate clarity of texture, neat and unfussy ornamentation, and with voice-leading all brought out to fine effect … what is so remarkable about these performances is the combination of textural clarity with the richness of tone afforded by Driver’s Steinway … I feel sure that Handel would have been only too delighted with these results … for those who prefer the piano, Driver provides the ideal alternative. It comes with fabulously eloquent notes from Richard Wigmore (in which every movement comes alive in his prose, a remarkable feat in itself) and a recording quality that captures every finest detail' (International Record Review) » More

Suite No 5 in E major, HWV430
composer
circa 1710; published in London in 1720 as part of a set of Suites de pièces pour le clavecin

Prelude  [1'54]
Allemande  [4'10]
Courante  [1'49]

Other recordings available for download
Paul Nicholson (harpsichord/virginals)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Suite No 5 in E major is a step further up the cycle of fifths from ‘youthful’ A major and E is the sharpest (and ‘highest’) key in general use. It was traditionally associated with heaven, but in the works of Handel it would seem that paradise is firmly terrestrial. True, the free-flowing prelude, the allemande and the courante are all lucidly gracious, but Handel dispenses with a sarabande and as his finale offers a variation-set on a tune so earthy in metrical symmetry and diatonic in harmonization that it quickly won the popular title of ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’. Again, Handel steers aristocratic finesse towards a rawly demotic future. Though Handel’s blacksmith, benign in harmony, may attempt celestial levitation in the shooting scales of his final variation, the effect is more comic than transcendent.

from notes by Wilfrid Mellers © 1995


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