Handel: The Musick for the Royal Fireworks

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi Baroque Esprit
WORKS: The Musick for the Royal Fireworks; Concerti a Due Cori Nos 1-3
PERFORMER: Zefiro/Alfredo Bernardini
CATALOGUE NO: 88697367912

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George II wasn’t overkeen on the idea of music to accompany the elaborate fireworks celebrating the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle, and he was thwarted in his plea for ‘no violeens’. But he would surely have approved this latest recording made by the wind ensemble Zefiro.

Naturally, there are strings here, but while they don’t exactly play second fiddle, the palate is pungently gamey with the rasp horns, buzz of oboes and a glint of trumpets. 

Unlike Tafelmusik or Savall’s Le Concert des Nations, Zefiro sports no contrabassoon for added ‘bottom’, but once past the curious opening which resembles a wonky generator starting up, the players want for nothing in immediacy or colour. They contrive majesty without pomposity, and there’s a deal of gleeful thrusting in the confrontational face-offs which animate the Allegro continuation.

The easeful suavity of the ‘Bourrée’ neatly counterpoints the arcadian lilt of ‘La paix’, while the two concluding menuets are appealingly crisp and sprucely turned out. Pinnock or Gardiner tap into the Anglo-Saxon ceremonial more readily, but as in Accademia Bizantina’s recent disc of the Organ Concertos, Op. 4, Zefiro are out to offer a refreshing Italian perspective.

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Laced with infectious swagger, the three Concerti a due cori (roughly contemporary with the fireworks music) provide an inspired and inspiring coupling. Paul Riley