Handel's unrivaled masterpieces of the concerto grosso form and style--his Twelve Grand Concertos, in seven parts, for four violins, a tenor, a violoncello, with a thorough-bass for the harpsichord--here receive their finest recording to date, with performances that leave all others--both period- and modern-instrument versions--in their wake. For obvious reasons these 12 concertos have remained popular since their publication in 1740: the irresistibly congenial tunes and engaging rhythms, the free-spirited fugues, endearing Largos and Adagios, and overall vivacious writing for all instruments elicits correspondingly high-spirited responses from anyone within earshot of these unrelentingly entertaining works.
Pavlo Beznosiuk and his Avison Ensemble have left not a single Handelian note unaccounted for nor a delightful phrase unturned, and the ensemble playing is simply electrifying, crackling and sparking with the kind of head-on accents and lilting rhythmic lift that this music requires but rarely enjoys. You don't have to already know this music to appreciate (my favorite) Concerto No. 4 in A minor HWV 322, with its scintillating allegros, or the thrillingly accented opening dialog of Concerto No. 5 HWV 323, or the many beautifully drawn slow-movement melodies and catchy, clever dance movements.
We can cite individual players for their impressive effort, but when virtually everyone is performing at such a high level it doesn't seem appropriate--this is definitely a triumph of ensemble performance, where everyone is a master of the medium and the material, all of which is beautifully realized by the stunningly realistic, resoundingly vibrant sound engineering. By now you've got the picture: Essential!—David Vernier