Firstly, let’s make
it clear from the outset that this is
an excellent CD of thrilling music which
is very well known and loved.
I grew up like many
others with the Harty arrangements and
the speeds employed there were certainly
The Aradia Ensemble
are from Toronto and play on what they
call "original instruments".
This mustn’t put off those who like
André Previn feel they must be
playing "perfectly out of tune".
These are fine performances and Mallon
seems to be something of a Handel fan
as their next recording - just out -
is the extravaganza "Rinaldo".
The first suite is
by far the longest and goes splendidly
with fine playing from the winds and
strings; no acidic quality here. Then
a bit of a shock with track 4, piece
6, "Air" which used to introduce
the BBC Home Service in the nineteen-sixties.
This seems very fast compared to what
we’re used to. In the very good notes
there is a comment by Mallon that as
a student he studied the score in The
John Watson Music Library in Manchester
with John Eliot Gardiner. This air apparently
is marked "presto" and avoids
what he calls a "lugubriousness".
He may be right but I prefer the Air
as it used to be! There’s a real "joi
de vive" in the bourree where we
encounter the tambourine. One reviewer
at least has been concerned by its presence.
I must say I rather like it and suspect
Handel would have too!
Things go perfectly
splendidly throughout the second and
third suites and I got to thinking how
much I’d like to hear this band live.
The famous tune in track 10 "Alla
Hornpipe" is a superb example of
the very fine musicianship throughout
this CD. I also feel a sense of fun
and enjoyment in these performances;
no dry-as-dust renditions here. I’m
sure Beecham - a great discoverer of
Handel - would have tapped his cigar
to these joyful noises. Mention should
be made of the fine renditions of the
rigaudon and minuets in the third suite
with notable flute playing; also more
appearances by the tambourine!
Music for the Royal
A splendid opening
signals that we are in the world of
pomp and circumstance. The mood is grander
now and the band play fit for royalty.
The overture is thrilling and would
certainly make a grand accompaniment;
I couldn’t call it background to a firework
display. After the splendour of the
first two pieces we have the more reflective
"La Paix" where, apparently
for the first time, transverse flutes
are used and very effectively so, adding
a touch of magic. There’s much banging
of drums in "La Réjouissance"
and a triumphal conclusion to Minuet
II; thus ending with splendid playing.
I’m sure George II would have loved
David R Dunsmore