Harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, American-born and French-trained, enters a fairly crowded field with this set of Handel
's suites for harpsichord and emerges with a strong showing. He avoids the bouncy quality that can work well in Handel in general but isn't quite suited to these suites. Although their movements bear the titles of French dances, they aren't like Couperin
's suites or even those of Bach
; they reach back to the German generation that Handel knew in his youth, with a rather severe quality that does not preclude either occasional flashes of humor or technical brilliance. Vinikour strikes an accurate balance, adding intricate but natural-sounding ornamentation and staying alert to unexpected details while keeping to a serious tone overall. Try out the "Suite in F sharp minor, HWV 431," on the second disc; the music has an operatic quality. Other pieces are evocative of German organ music; each suite has a slightly different personality. The conclusion of the program with the big "Chaconne in G major, HWV 435," emphasizes the serious and virtuosic elements, as does the use of a modern copy of a 1739 Gräbner harpsichord from Dresden, a muscular instrument with an extended bass range. These pieces were dubbed the "Great" suites at one time, and that's how they come out in Vinikour's reading: without the catchy quality that one thinks of as Handelian, but with something else in its place, a rigorous, brilliant quality that's an important underpinning of his style.