Jory Vinikour, harpsichordist, conductor


Handel: Harpsichord Suites (1720)
Delos, 2009

“... Mr. Vinikour ideally captures the inherent spirit of each movement. Passages of dazzling technical difficulty are rendered with exhilarating ease. Yet, when the cast of the piece reveals to the listener that exhilaration is not the intent, Mr. Vinikour is capable of communicating through the inflections of his playing that the music is difficult, frustratingly and maddeningly so, explosions of anger and temper expressed as deftly as murmurs of joy and tenderness. ... Listening to Mr. Vinikour’s performances on these discs, every idiomatic challenge met head-on and won heroically, the essence of Händel’s musical sensibility seems lovingly revealed.”
Voix des Arts [full review]

“Vinikour adds a real scholarly insight (which is augmented by his informative and lucid sleeve notes) to his performances. This, along with the strikingly warm and animated harpsichord sound ...
    “Vinikour consistently rises to the occasion. He sparkles in the fast sections, and languishes appealingly in the slower movements. Vinikour has nimble fingers, and his sharpness with inner voicing in fast contrapuntal sections is complemented by a steady grip on foreground details of line and development.
    “... a consistently exhilarating listening experience.”
— [full review]

“All in all, this is a fabulous release and a sure sign that Jory Vinikour is an artist to watch.” — American Record Guide

“Vinkour’s playing is crisp and muscular; he plays with a lot of enery yet is always sensitive and precise. It’s a testiment to Vinikour’s fine work—and Handel’s—that this music sounds perfectly realized on this instrument.” — Early Music America

“[Vinikour] seems to take special delight in the quick, perky, note-cluttered movements, and he absolutely revels in the bravura aspects of the Passacaglia ...” — Fanfare

“[Vinikour] unleashed his heart and imagination on these scores and truly allowed them to blossom ... Jory Vinikour’s grand manner exudes joy and musicality in every bar.” — Jed Distler

“Vinikour is a real virtuoso ... with astonishing command and bravura. ... Vinikour has a clear vision for the music and makes it compelling. This is a recording not to be missed!” — Kemer Thomson, Midlife Music Musings [full review]

“Vinikour’s performance is propulsive, his rhythms nicely gauged with just the right hesitations at cadences and phrases. His ornamentation is fully integrated into the musical fabric, which is to say it is natural and unselfconscious. In every sense, Vinikour, an extrovert performer by nature, has fully realized this music. It’s as if the composer himself were performing for us.” — Rodney Punt, LA Opus [full review]

“Jory Vinikour, one of the outstanding harpsichordists of his generation, celebrates the Handel year with a wonderful new recording of Handel’s ‘Great’ Suites, topped off with a special version of the famous Chaconne in G Major. Jory’s Handel is unquestionably as ‘definitive’ as his celebrated version of the Bach Goldberg Variations. The nobility, tenderness and delightful variety of each Suite speaks of Jory’s musical perspective not only as a virtuoso, but also as a conductor, opera continuist and joint recitalist in the course of his highly diversified career. The warm sound of this new Handel recording can be attributed to the instrument Jory plays, which is based on the 1739 Dresden harpsichord built by Heinrich Gräbner, with its extended basses and corresponding richness of timbre.” —

Review from Atlanta Audio Society:

Chicago native Jory Vinikour went to Paris in 1990 to study harpsichord with Huguette Dreyfus and Kenneth Gilbert. Somewhere along the line, he fell in love with the city (not a hard thing to do, that) and has resided there ever since, soaking up the local musical culture and working on his keyboard technique. It seems to me, Vinikour adds a uniquely American zest and passion for rhythm to his playing, which makes him, for my money, an ideal interpreter of Handel. He has it all on display in Handel: Harpsichord Suites (1720).

These are the so-called Eight Great Suites, for reasons that will be abundantly clear to the the most casual listener as well as the well traveled Handelian. This is Handel at his best, taking the received French suite, with Italian influences added, and adapting its conventions to his needs. His primary purpose, which Vinikour understands very well, was to entertain his listeners. Without necessarily sacrificing learned technique, he wore it lightly. As Vinikour observes, “Handel is not as strict a polyphonist as Bach, and in more interested by the gesture and the overall effect of each movement.”

Handel leaves much to the performer, marking arpeggio in front of chordal passages expressed in long note values to indicate the performer may take liberties as his judgment leads him. (Vinikour obviously goes in for this sort of thing.) Discretion is also left to matters of decoration, as in the Air in the D Minor Suite, HWV 428, which Vinikour embellishes imaginatively in a manner which Handel's mentor in Rome, Arcangelo Corelli, would have approved.

This same D Minor Suite will illustrate Handel's stylistic genius, and Vinikour's interpretive prowess, as well as any. It begins, not with a stately ouverture, but with a toccata-like Presto with arpeggiated figuration uncharacteristically written in detail by the composer. Vinikour follows it to the letter, taking the arpeggios at speed, although he admits “a case can certainly be made for a rhythmically free interpretation.” A freely handled, robust fugue follows. Then a charmingly graceful Allemande is followed by a very exciting Courante. At this point, Vinikour interpolates Handel's famous Sarabande and Variations, HWV 437. Though Vinikour gives this justly famed, soulful beauty all the attention it deserves, it must compete for pride of place with the afore-mentioned Air, with its two “doubles” and a thrilling Presto which he takes up-tempo to conclude the suite in splendid style. Jory Vinikour here plays an instrument perfectly suited to his purpose, a harpsichord made by John Phillips (2001), based on an original by Johann Heinrich Gräbner (Dresden, 1739) and remarkable for its clarity in all its well defined registers and its clean articulation. The recordings, made by producer Katherine Handford and engineer Lund in the First Scots Presbyterian Church, Charleston SC, have the well-balanced perspective that is vital when capturing the harpsichord for home listening.

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