There is no surviving autograph score for Handel’s Water Music
so performers have to rely on various manuscript versions.
are three standard suites which can be extracted from the surviving
scores: they all are scored for oboes, bassoons and strings
with additions in the in F major one including horns; the D
major which includes horns and trumpets; and G major which includes
transverse flute and recorder. It was probably performed for
the first time on 17th July 1717 on a trip down the
Thames by King George I from Westminster to Chelsea.
Koln comprise a small band of 5 first violins; 4 second violins,
3 violas, 2 cellos and 2 double basses; 1 flute, 2 oboes, 1
bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets; and harpsichord continuo and usually
perform without a conductor . The accounts of the trip talk
about 50 musicians, so these performers are about half the original
The suite in F
major is played with good sense of style and although there
are very few dynamics in the score they use their innate intelligence
to make the music come alive. Many of the movements are marked
with repeats which are always differentiated to give added interest.
couple of things to note; in the second movement Adagio e
Staccato the oboe melody is ornamented so elaborately that
the shape of the simple tune is lost. Compare it with the performance
by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – a similar sized band – and
see how the tune played with the minimum of ornamentation has
more impact. In the Air no 6 we get the variant for
harpsichord first, then the more familiar setting for orchestra.
suite in D major is next, and, with the inclusion of trumpets,
is the ‘brightest’ of the three suites. This is played with
great sparkle and accuracy with some breakneck speeds, and all
the repeats. Each repetition is different either in orchestral
mix or level or ornamentation.
G major suite has a much subdued feel to it without the brass
and with the inclusion of the flute. Indeed, this is thought
to be the music intended to be played while the guests dined.
In this performance I feel that the speeds in this suite are
just a touch too hasty, and they don’t quite relish the change
in atmosphere for these gentler pieces. The Orpheus Chamber
Orchestra are much more satisfying in this.
all, a fine performance of the Water Music which is sensitive
to the period style and played with panache. I always prefer
the G major suite played second and this performance is so good
I’d be prepared to spend the time programming the payer to get
it in the ‘right’ order – my little foible!
Water Music is usually coupled with the Music for the Royal
Fireworks (as on the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra disc) but here
the ‘fillers’ are two Sinfonia, both in B flat major. These
three movement pieces are an absolute delight and complement
the Water Music handsomely.
date for the first is not known, but it has been preserved for
posterity thanks to two copies made by other people - one being
the composer Christoph Graupnet - who met the 21 year old Handel
just before he left Hamburg for Italy. The resemblance of the
theme in the first movement of an introduction to an aria from
Handel’s first opera Almira allows us to date it to this
From the second,
composed in 1747, he borrowed a section for the introductory
music to Joshua, and in it are elements borrowed from George
Phillipe Telemann and George Muffat. Handel was the inveterate
There is a booklet
in German and English with a full track-listing, information
about the performers and music.
In all a very
enjoyable disc with the added surprise of two lesser known pieces,
and certainly one to which I will return regularly.