HANDEL: Organ Concertos, Op. 7
Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr, organ, harpsichord & conductor
HARMONIA MUNDI SACD HMU 807448/48 (2 disks) TT: 63:10 & 64:25

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 15 in D, Op. 28 "Pastoral." Six Variations on an Original Theme in F, Op. 34. Fifteen Variations and Fugue in E flat, Op. 35 "Eroica Variations."
Michael Korstick, piano
OEHMS SACD OC 619 TT: 66:05

GARNER: Spoon River Songs. Viñetas Flamencas. Fireflies and Willows. Phenomenal Woman.
Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano; Francisco Araiza, tenor; William Stone, baritone; Lisa Delan, soprano/Kirstin Pankonin, piano
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 301 TT: 80:03

Richard Egarr continues his Handel series on Harmonia Mundi with this superb issue of all six organ concertos of Op. 7 performed in "totally authentic style" according to his research, using a chamber organ with "real-time improvisations and enlarged continuo support." In addition we have the well-known Concerto in F, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale," and three works performed by Egarr on a harpsichord : Chaconne in F, HWV 485, Fugue in G minor HWV 264, and Chaconne in G HWV 442, a 17-minute set of variations, a Baroque display piece for the performer. Superb audio throughout, of the same quality as the same performer's previous issues of Handel: Concerti Grossi (REVIEW), and Organ Concertos, Op. 4 (REVIEW).

German pianist Michael Korstick (b. 1955), highly regarded for his solid musicianship, has a distinguished career, but has avoided the publicity blitz of many better known pianists. This site mentioned his superb recording of all of Milhaud's music for piano and orchestra (REVIEW). For the Oehms label he is now recording a cycle of Beethoven piano works; this is Volume 6 containing only one sonata, No. 15, but two major sets of variations, Op. 34 and 35. This is a worthy series, and the engineering is first-rate in replicating the sound of a piano in a good concert hall.

American composer David Garner graduated from the San Francisco Music Conservatory where he was chairman of the department of musicianship and music theory for 15 years. He has received many commissions, particularly from singers. Many prominent singers have performed his music including Frederica von Stade and Suzanne Mentzer. The latter is heard on this CD in a recent work by Garner, Spoon River Songs, based on poetry from Edgar Lee Masters' anthology. Pentatone's disk also features Garner's set of seven poems by Maya Angelou called Phenomenal Woman, a set of cabaret songs here sung by Lisa Delan who specializes in music by contemporary American composers. Earlier in his career, tenor Francisco Araiza recorded Mozart with Herbert von Karajan appearing often with other major conductors of the era. He now teaches at Stuttgart's Music Conservatory and the Zurich Opera. He is heard in Viñetas Flamencas, six flamenco vignettes written in 2000 a setting of texts by Federico Garcia Lorca scored for wind quintet, tenor and piano. Garner gives detailed program notes about all of this music, and complete texts are provided. This is an intriguing disk, very well performed and beautifully recorded by Job Maarse.

R.E.B. (August 2009)