Il Giardino Armonico perform Handel's Concerti Grossi op. 6 on L'Oiseau-Lyre It's been some time now, eh, for a release on Decca's early music label? And IGA? Wow. My de-facto Handel has been by Pinnock and the EC. Manze did his recording, but frankly, Handel's string concertos never afforded me that much pleasure. But I couldn't resist this new collection from G. Antonini and friends. The Italians (and here, I mean to saw Biondi with Europa Galante and Antonini's IGA) like to "mess" around with the music. Tempi sometimes, but more often than not, they like to mess with the dynamics. This is no exception, but the two leaders take very different approaches. Listening with headphones, this is real playing. It's almost rustic in quality, you can hear grunts, digs into strings, harsh bowing at times, all in the spirit of the music. This isn't polite "English" background music for high tea; it's Handel turned inside out, guts showing, passions exposed. The few times we do get a concertino solo here and there, Onofri and friends are on good form, never strident, but always with flair. Antonini makes some choices that make me sometimes put my head back... but there's always a musical reason behind his approach. The energy in concerto #5, for instance, is just non-stop. It's all face-forward. What the ensemble loses in this recording can be found in the same work, last movement. The "smooth"-ness they are capable of is almost lost in the acoustic used for the recording, and close-placement of microphones. But movements like these also expose an interesting continuo section, here, adding notable contributions from Pianca on lute. Other minor-moded movements like #6 in G minor, always seem to have drive and intensity. What's most jarring, perhaps, is the intimate, delicate contributions from the one or more solo violins against the full-on attack of the ensemble in intensity. None of these are complaints. Antonini takes his own style and applies it to Handel, which honestly for me, needed a little waking up. This is a modern interpretation, in many ways, but one that accentuates Handel's gifts as a composer. Very highly recommended.