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It was the circulation of ‘surrepticious and incorrect copies’ (the illegal downloads of the day) that prompted Handel to publish his Suites de pièces pour le clavecin (later known as the Eight Great Suites) in London in 1720. It’s likely that most of the music was composed between ten and 15 years earlier, yet it was only after he moved to Cannons in 1717 that Handel compiled the suites, revising and adapting existing scores and adding several entirely new movements.

The suites attest to Handel’s prolific creativity and to his skill at integrating a host of German, French and Italian influences into a seamless individual style. Though loosely based on the traditional sequence of dance movements – Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue – the eight suites are each configured differently, having four, five or six movements, and include delightful surprises such as fugues, airs and variations (including the famous ‘Harmonious Blacksmith’) and a stirring Passacaille. Suite No 2 is not really a suite at all, being more akin to an Italian sonata da chiesa.

Danny Driver handles this idiosyncratic profusion with relaxed authority and an impeccable touch. He’s completely attuned to the music’s fleeting emotional piquancies, from tender Sarabande to vigorous Gigue, and brings a thrilling touch of fantasy to the improvisatory Preludes. He also includes three additional suites, although HWV 435 is actually a magnificent 11-minute Chaconne. Driver’s virtuoso flourishes make it an exhilarating climax to his superlative set.

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Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing