Ton Koopman

Five Great Suites for Harpsichord (London, 1720)

Price: € 19.95
Format: CD
Label: Challenge Classics
UPC: 0608917292329
Catnr: CC 72923
Release date: 04 November 2022
1 CD
€ 19.95
Challenge Classics
Catalogue number
CC 72923
Release date
04 November 2022

About the album

George Frideric Handel made a name for himself as a brilliant organist and harpsichordist early on in his career. As a young man, he travelled from Germany to Italy in 1707. We do not know exactly how much or what Handel composed for harpsichord while in Italy, but we know more starting from the time he settled in England. Handel composed all sorts of works for harpsichord in England, In November 1720, he published the Suites de Pieces pour le Clavecin, now known as the Eight Great Suites, his most important work for harpsichord.

The spectacular Eight Great Suites show Handel the harpsichordist at his best. The suites are made up not only of newly composed movements, but also of improved versions of pieces he had written before and of harpsichord arrangements of his own compositions for other instruments. One theme central to interpreting Handel’s works for harpsichord (and the rest of his œuvre, for that matter) is what to do with the dotted rhythms. In Handel’s music, we regularly see a theme appearing in different rhythmic variants – sometimes dotted, sometimes not, or only partially, dotted. The question, therefore, is whether to perform these rhythms uniformly throughout the piece or to play them as they were written out in each instance by the composer. I have in large part chosen the latter.
Georg Friedrich Händel machte sich schon früh einen Namen als brillanter Organist und Cembalist. Als junger Mann reiste er 1707 von Deutschland nach Italien. Wir wissen nicht genau, wie viel oder was Händel in Italien für Cembalo komponiert hat, aber wir wissen mehr aus der Zeit, als er sich in England niederließ. In England komponierte Händel alle möglichen Werke für Cembalo. Im November 1720 veröffentlichte er die Suites de Pieces pour le Clavecin, die heute als die Eight Great Suites bekannt sind, sein wichtigstes Werk für Cembalo.

Die spektakulären Eight Great Suites zeigen den Cembalisten Händel in Höchstform. Die Suiten bestehen nicht nur aus neu komponierten Sätzen, sondern auch aus verbesserten Versionen von Stücken, die er zuvor geschrieben hatte, und aus Cembalobearbeitungen seiner eigenen Kompositionen für andere Instrumente. Ein zentrales Thema bei der Interpretation von Händels Cembalowerken (und übrigens auch seines gesamten Œuvres) ist die Frage, was man mit den punktierten Rhythmen anfangen soll. In Händels Musik taucht ein Thema regelmäßig in verschiedenen rhythmischen Varianten auf - manchmal punktiert, manchmal nicht oder nur teilweise punktiert. Es stellt sich also die Frage, ob man diese Rhythmen im gesamten Stück einheitlich aufführt oder ob man sie so spielt, wie sie vom Komponisten in jedem einzelnen Fall notiert wurden. Ich habe mich größtenteils für Letzteres entschieden.


Ton Koopman was born in Zwolle in 1944. After a classical education he studied organ, harpsichord and musicology in Amsterdam and was awarded the Prix d'Excellence for both instruments. Almost from the beginning of his musical studies he was fascinated with authentic instruments and a performance style based on sound scholarship.

Even before completing his studies he laid the foundations for a career as a conductor of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music and this fascination with the Baroque era led him in 1969, at age 25, to establish his first Baroque orchestra and, in 1979, to found The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra followed in 1993 by the Amsterdam Baroque Choir.

Koopman's extensive and impressive activities as a soloist, accompanist and conductor have been recorded on a large number of LP's and CD's for labels like Erato, Teldec, Sony, Philips and DGG. Recently Ton Koopman has created his own record label: 'Antoine Marchand', with which he will publish his future recordings.

Over the course of a forty-year career Ton Koopman has appeared at the most important concert halls and festivals of the five continents. As an organist he has performed on the most prestigious historical instruments of Europe, and as a harpsichord player and conductor of his Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir he has been a regular guest at venues which include the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Theatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, the Philharmonie in Munich, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, the Lincoln Center in New York, and leading concert halls in Vienna, London, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, Rome, Salzburg, Tokyo and Osaka. Over the past ten years Ton Koopman has been engaged in 'the recording project of the '90's' (so described by 'The Guardian' in London). Between 1994 and 2004 he has conducted and recorded all the existing cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, a massive work for which he has been awarded with the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis "Echo Klassik 1997", the Prix Hector Berlioz, and been nominated for both the Grammy Award (USA) and the Gramophone Award (UK). In March 2000 he received an Honorary Degree from the Utrecht University for his scholarly work on the Bach Cantatas and Passions and in February 2004 he was awarded both the prestigious Silver Phonograph by the Dutch recording industry and the VSCD Classical Music Award 2004 by the Directors of Theatres and Concert Halls of Holland. Ton Koopman is also very active as a guest conductor and he has worked with many prominent orchestras in Europe, the USA and Japan including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Boston Symphony, the Vienna Symphony, the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Danish Radio Orchestra and many others. He has been for eight years principal conductor of the Radio Chamber Orchestra in Holland and he is principal guest conductor of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. In the coming season he will be working with the Chicago Symphony, the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Helsinki Radio Orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

Ton Koopman publishes regularly and for a number of years he has been engaged in editing the complete Handel Organ Concerti for Breitkopf & Härtel. Pedagogy has been an important factor in Ton Koopman's life for many years and to that end he is professor of harpsichord at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and is an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London.


Play album


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