Evgeni Koroliov Brings Insights to Handel

Tastes evolve. At least, mine have. When I first started listening to classical music, I wasn’t particular about origins. A violin sonata transcribed for clarinet? Fine. Baroque keyboard music played on a modern piano? Cool. 

All that mattered was the sound. If it sounded good, I was good. Then I discovered the authentic instrument movement, and my attitude changed. Bach didn’t write for a Steinway. I wanted to hear his keyboard music played the way he intended, on an instrument of his time. And don’t even talk to me about transcriptions.

I’ve since mellowed. No matter how precise the notation is, the performer has to make musical judgments. And in the case of playing Baroque music on the piano, a lot of them. The modern piano has a host of expressive options unavailable to the harpsichord. Using them judiciously can yield insights into the works. 

Evgeni Koroliov is just such an artist. In this release he performs selections from two volumes of Handel’s keyboard suites. The works date from the 1710s (though published later). Handel was a gifted melodist, and many of these pieces have wonderfully crafted tunes. 

But he could also write contraputally (as in Suite 3, Set I). His counterpoint isn’t as thick as Bach’s — but it’s pretty darned melodious. 

Koroliov’s phrasing illuminates the structure of these works. There are subtle divisions between melodic and supporting harmonic lines. Small changes in dynamics signal major events. The pedal is used sparingly but effectively. 

Authentic? No. But musical? Yes. Koroliov gives us engaging, thoughtful performances of this material. And isn’t that what we’re listening for?

Georg Friedrich Handel: Piano Suites
Evgeni Koroliov, piano

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