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Premium Composers, Vol. 1: Handel / Marriner, Brown, Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields

Handel / Amf / Marriner / Brown
Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 94601   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



HANDEL Water Music. 1 Music for the Royal Fireworks 1. Concerti Grossi, Op. 3 2 1 Neville Marriner, 2 Iona Brown, cond; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields HÄNSSLER 94 601 (2 CDs: 116:48)


This set is a mid-priced reissue of recordings issued in the mid 1990s. Michael Read more Ullman praised both recordings on their initial release. Concerning Marriner’s disc, he said, “The playing is expert, impressively elegant without a hint of stolidity” ( Fanfare 18:2). About Brown’s concerti grossi disc he wrote, “It is lively, balanced, and the solo playing by the winds is ravishing. … I could praise as well … the overall spirit that Iona Brown brings to these works” ( Fanfare 20:5). With a few exceptions, I am in complete agreement.


The Music for the Royal Fireworks is lively and expertly played. The strings occasionally sound a little thin but are generally fine. Marriner sometimes suppresses the brass instruments to create echo effects. In the Ouverture I do not hear the snare drums at places I am used to hearing them, but they are used effectively in the concluding Menuets. Marriner combines those two Menuets (the first to be played twice, the second three times) in the order 2-1-2-1-2, which it seems to me is the most effective way to play them.


The Water Music is performed in the artificial arrangement into three suites. In a recent review of a Marc Minkowski recording (34:5), I presented my reasons for preferring the movement order taken from the earliest published scores. That issue aside, this is a highly effective, very enjoyable recording, well played, well paced.


These were Marriner’s third recordings of these two works. I have not heard the EMI recordings (apparently not currently available), but the earliest effort, recorded in 1971, is available on Decca. Marriner’s approach to these two works had changed very little over the intervening 22 years. The only really noticeable change is in the Water Music and concerns which repeats to include (most are taken) and the order of movements in the Suite in G.


The Academy has also recorded the op. 3 Concerti Grossi three times, twice under Marriner and once under Brown. The earliest effort, from 1964, is currently available on Decca paired with the 12 concerti of op. 6. A set issued by Philips in 1984 (with which I am not familiar) is available as an ArkivMusic CD reprint. The Hännsler set was recorded in 1995.


There is a greater contrast between the earliest and most recent recordings. In 1964 the Academy was perhaps still feeling its way and occasionally, but rarely, disappoints. Brown’s tempos are faster than Marriner’s in all six works. Aside from the two shortest concerti (3 and 6), in which the timings are very close, the differences range from :35 (Nos. 4 and 5) to 2:27 (No. 2), with 1:17 for No. 1. Occasionally, Marriner sounds a bit stodgy, as in most of No. 1, but at other times, especially in Nos. 3 and 5, his tempos are preferable to those of Brown, who can sometimes sound a bit hard-driven. However, nothing here is outrageous, and the faster tempos will be familiar from some period-instrument recordings as well.


Both of these recordings are still listed at full price at ArkivMusic. Although they will not replace my favorite recordings of these works (Leppard on Philips for the Royal Fireworks Music and Pinnock on Archiv for the others), anyone looking for a basic modern-instrument recording of these works will find this set worthwhile.


FANFARE: Ron Salemi
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Works on This Recording

1.
Water Music Suite no 3 in G major, HWV 350 by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England 
2.
Water Music Suite no 2 in D major, HWV 349 by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England 
3.
Water Music Suite no 1 in F major, HWV 348 by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England 
4.
Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351 by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749; London, England 
5.
Concerti grossi (6), Op. 3/HWV 312-317 by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England 

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