Bernard Labadie and his Les Violons du Roy have long demonstrated an affinity for Handel in their concert programs, including memorable Messiah performances and various Concerto Grosso selections. Finally we get to hear this first-class orchestra do its Handel magic on disc, in what proves to be one of the finest recorded versions of the three Water Music suites. Scintillating, snappy, and sonorous are among the more obvious descriptions of the playing and ensemble sound, but you also can't help being impressed by the group's trademark crisp, clean articulation that gives full expressive voice to every careful inflection and pointed accent, exemplified in the ravishing opening of the F major SuiteRead more No. 1.
You'll also notice how Labadie treats phrases, not as squared-off segments as in most performances, but with "rounded" endings that allow the dances to flow more dynamically, with a purposeful sense of rhythmic momentum. This is most notable--and effective--in the famous "Hornpipe" of the D major Suite No. 2, where the rapid alternating thematic sequences never sound clipped or rushed. And as for the horns(!)--these players really know how to create the robust, brazen timbre these works require (check out the third movement of the F major suite).
The strings and winds are vibrant and characterful and together perfectly capture the spirit of the dances, from an elegant minuet to a majestic overture, from a buoyant air to a bouncing bourrée. And speaking of bourrées--Labadie resists the temptation to race frantically through this movement of the F major suite, taking an effectively brisk tempo where others tend to lose perspective (and musical sense) in what often becomes a mad, silly dash to the finish.
In sum, this is exciting, virtuosic, expertly timed, eminently stylish playing, unencumbered by fussy ornamentation or conductor-imposed mannerisms. It's just great Handel, captured in gorgeous sound--and if you don't yet own a set of this infectious, timeless music (and even if you think you don't need another one), you shouldn't hesitate to add this to your collection, without delay. Outstanding!
This is the one to buy, if you're buying only one.June 28, 2012By Morris R. (Fort Lee, NJ)See All My Reviews"Listening to this version is like hearing the Water Music Suite for the first time. Transcendental. And the natural sounds of this recording amplifies its beauty."Report Abuse