Handel: Water Music; Suite from Il pastor fido

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Water Music; Suite from Il pastor fido
PERFORMER: Tafelmusik/Jeanne Lamon
It would be misleading to claim that a new period-instrument recording of the Water Music was ‘authentic’: the celebrated first performance of Handel’s glorious score took place on a barge on the Thames. The ‘Fifty instruments of all sorts’ had to play through the music three times in all: we can only hope that the musicians were well rewarded for their labours. The Canadian group Tafelmusik makes do with just 33 players, and their neat, rather prim performance most certainly would not suit a big outdoor occasion. They group the pieces according to the so-called ‘mixed version’, rather than in the conventional (but not authenticated, as there is no autograph score) three suites. The playing is rhythmically alert and well-phrased, and Tafelmusik’s wind players are, as ever, a match for their very best European counterparts. But I did miss the sense of exuberance and even abandon which characterised John Eliot Gardiner’s recent Philips recording of the three suites.


Still, the Sony version has a significant extra, in the form of a 25-minute suite which Handel arranged in 1734 from his 1712 opera Il pastor fido, and this contains some delightful dances rather in the style of Rameau. The recorded sound is superb. Stephen Maddock