Handel Water Music
Whatever the circumstances were which prompted Handel to write his Water Music, it is highly unlikely that George I ever witnessed performances matching up to this one. Had I been in the monarch's shoes and heard the present version I'd have given Handel anything in the world! Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert have already given us a splendid and satisfying account of Handel's Op. 6 Concerti grossi (Archiv Produktion 2742 002, 11/82). Now they have followed it up with the sparkling performance of the three groups of movements which comprise the Water Music. Tempos are well judged and there is a truly majestic sweep to the opening F major French overture; that gets things off to a fine start but what follows is no less compelling with some notably fine woodwind playing so often the disappointing element in performances on period instruments. I liked the tempo of the well-known Air, which felt uncomfortably fast in the recording of the AAM on L'Oiseau-Lyre.
In the D major music it is the brass department which steals the show and in this new version horns and trumpets acquit themselves with distinction. It seems to my ears that Archiv Producktion have achieved a particularly satisfying sound in which all strands of the orchestral texture can be heard with clarity. In this suite the ceremonial atmosphere comes over particularly well with some resonant brass playing complemented with crisply articulated oboes.
The G major pieces are quite different from thos in the previous groups, being lighter in texture and more closely dance-orientated in character. I find them amongst the most engaging in the Water Music and especially, perhaps, the two little 'country dances' the boisterous character of which Pinnock captures nicely.
This performance is, perhaps, as they say, the one we've been waiting for. Certainly it has already replaced in my affections all others known to me. The digitally-recorded sound is, as I've already said, amongst the most pleasing I have heard from Archiv Produktion. Strongly recommended.'