WORKS: Water Music
PERFORMER: English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 434 122-2 DDD
This vibrant period-instrument performance will have you dancing in your living-room. Philips’s sympathetic acoustic reveals every detail of Handel’s instrumental inner part-writing. In particular, the oboes and bassoons of the F major Suite (here sensibly placed first) come over crystal clear.
John Eliot Gardiner’s pacing permits no movement to flag. Both sectional leads and tutti are beautifully pointed and balanced. Individual players’ phrasing is full of light and shade, so that the performance ‘breathes’. Continuo is alert, the brass scintillating. Trickier details, such as quick-singing scalic passages for paired instruments, are brought off to perfection.
Especially attractive is the way you can sense the French courtly style of Lully and those Purcellian touches Handel so deftly assimilated merging to form a distinctive English late Baroque. With performers of this quality, it’s hardly surprising that George I, wafting to Chelsea and back in midsummer 1717, ‘caus’d Mr. Hendel’s Symphonies to be plaid over three times in going and returning’. Jonathan Keates’s historical programme note sets the work admirably in context. This is a state-of-the-art disc to rush out and buy. Roderic Dunnett