Originally designed as interludes for oratorios in the theatre, Handel’s organ concertos with their catchy tunes quickly became crowd pullers. With the creation of this new genre, the ambitious composer even overtook celebrity singers like Farinelli. Transcriptions for harpsichord and string quartet, which made these works performable at home, contributed to the growing popularity of Handel’s works.
With her album, pianist Ragna Schirmer, who has won numerous awards for her Handel suites, pursues her Handel mission by presenting organ concertos in various versions on three CDs. On the first CD, she plays the fortepiano, on the second one a modern grand piano, and on the third she performs on a Hammond organ. She has chosen the Handel Festival Orchestra with its long-standing Handel tradition as her partner for her interpretations on the fortepiano. The special feature of the first CD is the transcription of two concertos for a woodwind trio. The masterly solo passages on the flute make Handel’s cherished flute registers audible.
On the second CD, Ragna Schirmer plays a grand piano, together with the chamber orchestra DaCuore, which she has founded. The transcriptions unfold more freely here and move away from the baroque playing experience. The transition into Modernism is furthermore emphasised by the Concertino by French composer Guillaume Connesson. Connesson dedicated this work, which relates to Handel, to Ragna Schirmer.
Finally, the third CD displays Handel’s popularity and improvisation by transcribing four of the organ concertos for a jazz ensemble. Ragna Schirmer plays the organ part of Handel’s organ concertos on a Hammond organ B3, dating from 1957. Stefan Malzew arranges these concertos in a witty and creative way, all while maintaining great respect for Handel’s works. Other artists featured on this album are jazz masters such as Peter Weniger, Gérard Presencer, Geoffroy de Masure, Winfried Holzenkamp, and Matthias Daneck.
This album reveals the diversity and beauty of George Frederick Handel’s concertos in a new fashion.