Various Artists

Handel Edition: Concerti Grossi; Water Music; Music for the Royal Fireworks

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In this six-disc set dedicated to Handel's orchestral music, there are the good, the decent, and the altogether ugly performances. The good performances are of the 6 Concerti grossi, Op. 3, featuring Les Musiciens du Louvre under Marc Minkowski, light and lively performances with plenty of energy and enthusiasm. The decent performances are of the three Water Music Suites with John Eliot Gardiner leading the English Baroque Soloists, big and brawny performances with more strength than subtlety and more drive than poise. Also decent is the Royal Fireworks Music with Jean-François Paillard directing his Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra, a massive and monumental performance of immense power, if not quite enough grace. The ugly performances are of the 12 Concerti grossi, Op. 6, and the various miscellaneous concertos that fill the sixth disc, all played by Concentus Musicus Wien under the leadership of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. With thick textures, ungainly tempos, awkward rhythms, and more-miss-than-hit playing, these performances are among the worst ever recorded of these works, so listeners may want to skip them.

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