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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

There is a movement in classical music toward historically informed performances. That's when the musicians use the same sorts of instruments and play in the same style, as musicians did hundreds of years ago. Our critic Tom Manoff says the quest for authenticity can sometimes rob the music of its passion. So, he was delighted when England's Academy of Ancient Music hired keyboardist and conductor Richard Egarr to lead the ensemble. Manoff has this review, the academy's new CD of six "Organ Concertos" by George Frideric Handel.

(Soundbite of music, "Organ Concerto in B-Flat Major, Op. 4, No. 6: Andante allegro")

TOM MANOFF: The organ may be known as the king of instruments, but if you think of it only in terms of massive, cathedral-filling chords, you'll be surprised by this new recording, in which the organ sound is touched by intimacy and charm.

(Soundbite of music, "Organ Concerto in B-Flat Major, Op. 4, No. 6: Andante allegro")

MANOFF: Here, Richard Egarr is conducting the Academy of Ancient Music while playing the organ. He's also a versatile artist on other keyboards, including harpsichord and piano. He also plays music from many different eras, and has a remarkable gift for combining subtle musical gestures with forward-moving and irrepressible rhythms.

(Soundbite of music, "Organ Concerto in F Major, Op. 4, No. 5: Presto")

MANOFF: While I admire Egarr's recordings, I think he's even better in person. His recent performance with the Portland Baroque Orchestra was one of the most exciting musical evenings I've had in years. The way he communicates with audiences reminds me of Leonard Bernstein's ability to engage listeners without talking down to them. He also matches Bernstein's onstage charisma, so it wouldn't be a stretch to call Egarr, the Bernstein of Early Music.

(Soundbite of music, "Organ Concerto in F Major, Op. 4, No. 5: Presto")

MANOFF: I've been waiting for a conductor like Richard Egarr to come along for some time — a conductor who pursues historical authenticity, but allows himself an emotional involvement often avoided by many other early-music specialists. While he has a wonderful technique, he's much more than a master of finger work; Richard Egarr is a master of nuance, of dancing rhythms and sparkling melodies. He's one of the most exciting and delightful musicians of our time.

(Soundbite of music, "Organ Concerto in F Major, Op. 4, No. 5: Presto")

SIEGEL: Our critic is Tom Manoff. He reviewed the Academy of Ancient Music CD of "Handel: Organ Concertos." You can hear selections from the CD and discover more classical music at our site, npr.org/music.

(Soundbite of music, "Organ Concerto in F Major, Op. 4, No. 5: Presto")

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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