Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks; Concerti a due cori, HWV 332-4

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WORKS: Music for the Royal Fireworks; Concerti a due cori, HWV 332-4
PERFORMER: Tafelmusik/Jeanne Lamon
Handel composed his concerti a due cori as interval music for his oratorios in 1747 and 1748. Scored for strings, continuo and two ‘choruses’ of wind instruments – oboes and bassoons (HWV 332) plus horns (HWV 333 & 334) – they draw extensively on his earlier music and may sound to modern ears like ‘greatest hits’ medleys. It’s unlikely Handel intended them as such since his audiences wouldn’t have been sufficiently au fait with his oeuvre; probably he was just trying to save himself work. Exuberant and charming, these lightweight pieces make ideal interval music; however, grouped together, as on this CD, they become less effective, a 45-minute ‘interval’ on a 65-minute disc. Tafelmusik’s performances, though nicely shaped and sharply focused, also lack the requisite touch of boldness. This is true, too, of their Fireworks Music, given here in its slightly later ‘indoors’ version. Tafelmusik plays the Ouverture with splendid ceremony and zest but its ‘La réjouissance’ can’t match the thrilling charge of Roger Norrington’s recent Virgin recording; Tafelmusik also plays the closing two minuets consecutively, whereas Norrington’s option of placing the first ‘inside’ the second provides a more dramatically pleasing climax. His disc, with the Water Music, offers a more attractive coupling too. Graham Lock