Classical CDs Review: Two clarinets and stereo snare drums

Two discs of solo wind music, Baroque concerti grossi and a radiant French ballet score.
Handel: Six Concerti Grossi Van Diemen’s Band/Martin Gester (BIS)
I wanted to hear this disc purely on the basis of the group’s name. My instincts didn’t let me down. Martin Gester and Van Diemen’s Band, (based, naturally, in Tasmania) give vibrant accounts of Handel’s Op. 3 Concerti Grossi, works which were never conceived as a set by the composer but were surreptitiously assembled without Handel’s knowledge by a crafty London publisher in 1734. As with Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, each one is differently scored and the number of movements varies. These effervescent, joyous readings are consistently entertaining. It’s difficult not to grin upon hearing Gester’s gorgeous organ cadenza, separating the two movements of the D major Concerto No. 6. That the last movement is in D minor makes no obvious sense. Somehow it all hangs together.
There’s some marvellous oboe playing from Jasu Moisio and Ingo Mueller throughout the disc, and Georgia Browne’s recorder solo in Concerto No. 3 is poised and stylish. And the pair of solo violins in No. 2’s first movement – you’ll rarely hear their chattering interplay sounding so musical, and so sweetly integrated into the sound picture. Concerto No. 5’s fleet finale boasts engagingly cheeky bassoons. The list of reasons to acquire this disc could run into several pages. This is eloquent, elegant music making, and the most infectiously upbeat baroque disc I’ve heard in months. BIS’s glowing sound is another highlight, the concertos taped late in 2019 in Sandy Bay, Hobart. A treat.