Handel: Water Music Suite in F; Water Music Suite in G; Water Music Suite in D

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Water Music Suite in F; Water Music Suite in G; Water Music Suite in D
PERFORMER: Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-91716-2 DDD
The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra is smaller than the 50 players that Handel used for his performance on barges which went up and down the Thames, to the delight of England’s new Hanoverian king, George I, in 1717. Koopman opts for the sensible new division of the music into three suites, one with horns (probably the first time they were used in England) in F, one with flutes in G, and one with trumpets in D.

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There is a fine critical edition by the late Roger Fiske which tells of all the textual problems. He relates that the Water Music was frequently used in the intervals of performances at London theatres: ‘sometimes kettle-drums were advertised as a special attraction, but no parts survive’. In this recording there are rousing timpani parts in the D major suite, but they are something of a mystery. No performer is listed in the orchestral line-up in the booklet notes and it is not stated where the part comes from: presumably it was written by Koopman, but we really ought to be told. It certainly adds a festive note, though there is some question as to whether there were timpani on the original barges (or indeed if there was a harpsichord, though there is a famous painting of ‘boat music’ on the Thames with a harpsichord). A stylish recording, much recommended. HC Robbins Landon