Concerto Grosso in G major, Op.6/1, HWV 319
Concerto Grosso in F major, Op.6/2, HWV 320
Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op.6/3, HWV 321
Concerto Grosso in A minor, Op.6/4, HWV 322
Concerto Grosso in D major, Op.6/5, HWV 323
Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op.6/6, HWV 324
When the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin first assembled in 1982, the group was among only a small group in Germany, and perhaps the first in the former East Germany. Now they've got lots of competition, but they've stuck with the virtues that made them famous and have continued to maintain their preeminent status. Those virtues include a characteristic silvery (or, in the case of Handel, perhaps, watery) tone, a subtle lyricism, and most of all precise ensemble honed by the fact that, well ahead for their time, the group has no conductor, only a rotating concertmaster, in this case, Bernhard Forck. The players really listen to each other, and the music is constantly revealing, and revealing in a lively way, small contrapuntal details. That's all to the good in this collection of "concerti grossi" of Handel, the first of a set. These aren't the most familiar Handel instrumental works, but any lover of the "Water Music" should enjoy them. In the older Corellian four- or five-movement form, they wear the garments of dances and Italian sonata movements over intricate harmonic and contrapuntal frameworks, and the Akademie catches the balance perfectly, treating it flexibly as the moment dictates. You could sample almost anywhere, but try the opening Larghetto e staccato from the six-movement "Concerto grosso in D major, Op. 6, No. 5, HWV 323," to hear how a detail of ensemble articulation can shape the structure of an entire movement. The Akademie für alte Musik Berlin continues to show how it's done.