Handel: Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks - Savall
Alia Vox Heritage AVSA9860
Handel: Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks
Le Concert des Nations
Jordi Savall (direction)
A sparkling performance of classical hits, this album received major classical awards: Diapason d'or, Choc du Monde de la Musique. The orchestra Le Concert des Nations confirms its supremacy in the XVIIIth-century repertoire.
Review by John Miller - April 22, 2008
Handel's evergreen duo of orchestral pieces has been celebrated in many fine recordings, both in period and modern instrument versions. Jordi Savall's disc was set down in 1993 and obtained almost universal acclaim for its flair and superb period instrumental playing from Le Concert des Nations. Alia Vox have now remastered it as a 5.0 SACD. There are no details about the process, so we are left to guess if this has synthesised surround channels, but it certainly sounds as though it was recorded in surround with fully coherent rear and centre signals. If I had not been told its origin, I would have said it was a recent DSD or high res PCM recording. The instrumental timbres, orchestral detail and sense of a generous playing space at the Chateau de Cardona, Catalogne are very realistic and most impressive.
Briefly comparing Savall's account with another splendid SACD version from Martin Perlman and Boston Baroque from Telarc led me to just prefer Savall. His tempi are for most items a little broader than Perlman's, but the rhythms are tauter and more stylishly sprung. In the Fireworks Music, Jordi's French Overture, an icon of Baroque splendour and majesty, has much more 'attitude', with crisper double-dotting, glorious horns and a truly resplendent swagger which I found irresistible. Listen to Savall's Spanish trumpeter pull out something special at the end of the slow section of the Overture to introduce the allegro, while Perlman's trumpeter does something conventional. Savall's allegro section is so infectious as to invite some seriously physical air-conducting; mere listening doesn't seem enough. Incidentally, Perlman uses a serpent as a bass doubling instrument in the Fireworks Music. Handel added this as an option in the score. You can hear it in the Telarc recording, as a resinous rumble, but to me it rather thickens the texture, adding sometimes to a slight feeling of heavyness in Boston Baroque's approach when compared with Savall. In the dances of the Water Music suites, the range of tonal colour conjured up by Les Concerts des Nations is outstanding, horns and oboes engaging in cheeky dialogues, all with great warmth and sparkling wit.
Savall has rearranged the traditional three Water Music Suites into two sets, combining the G and D suites into one, leaving the F suite alone; it works perfectly well. There is in any case no clear evidence as to the order in which Handel preferred the items, but this may matter to some, so Perlman would be the choice if this is important.
Both Savall and Perlman are at the top of the range in these works. If you already have Perlman, there is no real need to acquire Savall. And of course, for the wind and brass version of Fireworks Music, there is the indispensable Frederick Fennell, also on Telarc (stereo).
Copyright © 2008 John Miller and HRAudio.net
Review by John Broggio - October 9, 2008
This is just a supplementary review to amplify what Geohominid says in his review.
First, the programming order of the music - Savall's first suite of the Water music is constituted from the D major and G major/minor suites as follows;
D major (Prelude*), D major (Menuet I*), G major (Menuet II), G major (Rigaudon I), G minor (Rigaudon II*) - recap Rigaudon I, G minor (Menuet I), G minor (Menuet II*), G minor (Gigue I*), G major (Gigue II*) - recap Gigue I, D major (Bourée), D major (Lentement), D major (Alla Hornpipe)
Savall's second suite is the F major suite and is performed in published order with the sole exception of performing the 7th movement (Menuet) last and the Music for the Royal Fireworks is performed as published.
*: no title indicated at time of publication
The musicality on display is very fine, especially the extemporised ornamentation, although one does wonder if Savall were to be recording this music now, he would adopt a more unbuttoned approach in the Water Music and give more head to the wind and brass players. There are moments as well in the horn playing (most noticeably) that mark this recording out as several years old - this sort of watery warbling is seldom heard today. As such, this lacks the finest distinction in playing that one could imagine, although it is certainly far more imaginative than Handel: Music for Royal Fireworks, Water Music - Pearlman.
As Geohominid also notes, given the date of recording, it is highly likely that the multi-channel layer is synthesised and that the original idea was a purely stereo presentation. Having said that, the multi-channel sound is fairly good if lacking in presence and tangibility that the very best period instruments are afforded.
Copyright © 2008 John Broggio and HRAudio.net