Notes and Editorial Reviews
. Concerto grosso in A,
op. 6/11, HVW 329
Anne Röhrig, cond; Hannoversche Hofkapelle (period instruments)
MDG 90518286 (65:07)
is one of those works that has become so iconic that it truly needs no introduction or reiteration. Composed in 1717, it is true outdoors music that was meant to accompany an outing on the Thames by George I, the erstwhile Elector
of Hannover who had just become the English monarch. The mythology surrounding the tension between the King and Handel, owing to the latter’s overstaying his leave to compose opera for London, has largely been overturned. He may well have been “posted” to London to report on the lay of the land for a potential heir, meaning that the sojourn may have had a diplomatic function. Whatever the true reason, the music has been seen as iconic ever since, forming a sort of suite bookend to the
Royal Fireworks Music
of two decades or so later.
Almost all of the performances on disc, and they are legion, feature the music divided into three separate suites: one in F Major that features the horns; one in D with trumpets, horns, and timpani; and one in G wherein the flute plays an important solo role. How these are distributed along the disc varies of course with the ensemble, but these apparently follow a sequence in several sources. Here, however, the entire music is played (ahem!)
, meaning that it goes through all three in an order that apparently mirrors the original performance, lasting about an hour. This is thanks to a score apparently written about 1718 and rediscovered in 2004 by Terence Best. Since the entire work is a bit short for a disc, director Anne Röhrig has chosen to supplement the
with one of the op. 6 Concerti Grossi. This work, a six-movement suite, was written towards the end of Handel’s career in 1740, itself being an arrangement of an Organ Concerto premiered the year before. This, of course, has nothing to do with the
, but rather is a nice, if non sequitur, complement.
One need not ruminate over the plethora of discs with both of these pieces that are available, given that many period instrument groups seem to have a fondness for recording it (often paired with the
in some fashion). For example, both Trevor Pinnock and Neville Marriner recorded it back in 1990, the former on Archiv and the latter on Decca, allowing for a comparison between period instruments with The English Concert and modern instruments with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. I happen to like both of these, and find the sound and performances equally entertaining. In 2009 Andrew Manze and the first-named ensemble even produced a DVD wherein there was an attempt to recreate the boating party of 1717, which was a great deal of fun. Thus, at last count there were well over two dozen recordings over the past two decades, and therefore this is not exactly an unknown quantity. But none of these have exactly the same arrangement as found in this disc, which should be somewhat of an enticement.
As for the performance itself, I find that the Hannoversche Hofkapelle’s is the equal in every way to any of the other performances. The string playing is tight and disciplined, the tempos all flow in a nice unity, and the intonation is spot on. The horns are suitably raucous when needed, and in the
(formerly of the D-Major Suite), both horns and trumpets are smooth and lyrical, a nice contrast to the fanfare-like character elsewhere. In short, this is a worthy addition to the
canon, and I for one would recommend it over the others, not just because of the quality of the performance, but rather especially for the organization of the music so that one might be able to appreciate what seems to be Handel’s original concept.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Water Music, HWV 348-350 by George Frideric Handel
Written: 1715/1736; London, England
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