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Handel's Water Music Disk Review

Guest Author - Gillian Buchanan

This disc contains a superb performance of The Water Music by George Frederic Handel, performed by the English Concert and conducted by Trevor Pinnock. According to the literature leaflet enclosed with it, the performance was recorded by the BBC in 1985 from St John Smith Square. Also included is a recording of the overture to Handel's opera Il Pastor Fido from the same venue in 1985. The orchestra is playing on reconstructed period instruments and instead of the rather dry sound sometimes heard from groups playing with no vibrato, a delightfully rich and characteristic orchestral sound is produced. It is noted in the disc leaflet that the continuo harpsichord was for this performance tuned using mean tone tuning rather than equal temperament.

I loved the recording of the Water Music. The music dances along and weaves itself amongst the different voices of the groups of instruments in a delightful fashion, and Pinnock encourages the orchestra to produce a rich, varied sound. Bearing in mind that the first performance (in 1717) was on a barge sailing down the Thames, listened to by King George I and a number of other dignitaries from another barge, it would have been quite amazing to hear the brass trumpeting across the river and according to folk legend the King loved the music so much that the orchestra was asked to play the whole work three times! Pinnock and the orchestra produce the full grandeur of the music and there is never a dull moment in the performance.

Those who know the Water Music well will realise that instead of being divided into three suites, Pinnock is using a slightly different layout for the movements of the D and G major suites. There is plenty of justification for this as the order he uses is the one given in an original manuscript written by Handel, and is the one used in the 1886 Chrysander edition.

I did not like the performance of the overture to Il Pastor Fido quite so much. The music is still rich and delightful but there is a short concerto at the end in which the solo violin plays a virtuoso movement. Unfortunately here the soloist, Simon Standage, plays with no vibrato at all and although it was quite standard to play period instruments like this at the time the recording was made, I prefer to hear a little vibrato as it gives the music warmth which is lacking here although the playing is wonderful. It's still an excellent recording and the whole disc is well worth purchasing.

If you would like to add this recording to your collection, it is available from Amazon.com here

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Content copyright © 2014 by Gillian Buchanan. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Gillian Buchanan. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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