Saturday, November 22, 2014

Handel on the Piano

Last night's Mixed Bag performance included a knockout Suite in D minor (No. 3) by Handel.  The penultimate work on the unannounced program, it was the piece that elicited audible gasps from the listeners.  Every time I play it I say out loud what a tremendous work it is.

What makes it so great?  It is completely unpredictable: no matter how many times I play it I am surprised at its whimsy, its subtle turns of line from rhythmic to lyric, its sense of foreboding alternating with exuberant virtuosity.  The level of variation built into this work is amazing, and none of it lost on the listener.

The other composers that evening were C P E Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.  We know, and you can tell from their music in case you didn't know it in advance, that both Beethoven and Brahms were heavily influenced by Handel.  You can hear those same attributes in their works, whether long or short.  C P E is more complicated to define in terms of influence.  He definitely had a mind of his own, whether influenced by anyone in particular I cannot say.  But the same properties, whimsy, variation, profound vocalism are all there.