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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



Brilliant Records

George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
Music for the Royal Fireworks (a)
Oboe Concerto No. 3 in G minor (a)
Harp Concerto in B flat major (b)
Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (c)
Concerto Grosso Opus 6 No. 8 in C minor (d)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra (a)
Sir Alexander Gibson (conductor) (a)
Robin Miller oboe (a)
Janáček Philharmony (b)
Hartmut Haenchen (conductor) (b)
Maria Garfova (harp) (b)
Orchestra of St. John’s Smith Square (c)
John Lubbock (conductor) (c)
Lodz Chamber Orchestra (d)
Zdislav Szostak (conductor) (d)
(a) Licensed from ASV
BRILLIANT 99777-28 [62.58]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)

Water Music (1717)
Suite No. 1 (Suite in F major, HWV 348)
Suite No. 2 (Suite in G major, HWV 350)
Trumpet Suite No. 3 (Suite in D major, HWV 349)
Consort of London/Robert Haydon Clark
Recorded 1989 (Originally issued on Collins Classics)
BRILLIANT 99777-29 [61.37]



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Handel’s suites of music for the Royal Fireworks and the Water Music are such iconographic pieces that they are available in a multitude of versions. Popularised in transcriptions for full orchestra by people like Hamilton Harty, the music in both works has been recorded by ensembles ranging from full symphony orchestra to original instruments, not forgetting the recordings which have gone back to Handel’s postulated original wind band version for some of the music.

These two discs from Brilliant illustrate two of the different attitudes to recording Handel. Alexander Gibson and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra have opted to record Handel’s text of the music for the Royal Fireworks but using profoundly traditional playing techniques and styles. Phrasing is strictly 19th century throughout, meaning that Handel’s string textures have a smoothness and opacity that he probably did not intend. Rhythmically this is a very solid performance, no attempt is made to give the pieces anything like the sprung rhythm and bounce that they require. That said, if you want a full orchestral version of the music, this is a pretty good performance. The instrumental playing is of a high standard and Gibson keeps the brass and drums reasonably in check. The coupling from the original disc is the Oboe concerto no. 3. Again, the string accompaniment is opaque and anachronistically phrased. But Robin Miller’s limpid oboe playing manages to lift the performance into another sphere. It is such a pity that they did not record some more. Instead, as fillers, there is rather a motley selection of pieces played by the Orchestra of St. John’s Smith Square, the Janacek Philharmony and the Lodz Chamber Orchestra. The Orchestra of St. John’s manage to make a neat enough turn of the ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’. But Hartmut Haenchen and the Janáček Philharmony manage to turn the Harp Concerto in B flat major into something charming which barely resembles Handel at all.

Turning to the Water Music suites, an entirely different attitude to recording is displayed. Robert Haydon Clark was a pupil of Thurston Dart’s and he has done much good work carrying on from Dart’s fine performances of Baroque music on modern instruments. Clark’s Water Music is a reasonably stylish achievement and is a decent period-aware performance on modern instruments. This is a performance that has appeared on super-budget disc before - see fuller review

Robert Hugill



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