Hannoversche Hofkapelle / Anne Röhrig

Händel: Water Music; Concerto Grosso

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This audiophile recording of Handel's (or Händel's) Water Music distinguishes itself from the hundreds of others available in several ways. First is the ordering of the pieces. Germany's Hannoversche Hofkapelle presents neither the usual complete Water Music nor any of the single-key suites into which the set, longer than would fit on a single LP record, was divided a half-century ago. Instead they follow a recently discovered manuscript, apparently copied out before 1718, that parcels out the music into a progression of related keys. There's a lot to be said for this approach. The work was demonstrably written for a single occasion, and a musical long-range thinker like Handel could easily have hit on a structure such as that displayed here. As annotator Brian Berryman points out, the roughly one-hour work that results accords with contemporary descriptions. And the whole is musically satisfying: all the big tunes are there, and you don't get overloaded by pieces in a single tonality. Less successful, perhaps, are conductor Anne Röhrig's readings. She seems to think of Handel as a kind of proto-galant composer, with a good deal of dynamic variation within individual phrases and a disinclination toward massed ensemble forte passages. It's hard to imagine the music here holding the king's attention in the work's original outdoor, shipboard setting, although on its own terms it reveals a good deal of small detail and is subtly played. There's nothing wrong with the engineering, executed in a German monastery farmhouse much favored by the MDG label, and this is worth the time of those interested in the problem of just what Water Music, for which no autograph has survived, was supposed to sound like.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Water Music, HWV 348
1 3:18
2 2:04
3
(-)
2:22
4 2:31
5 2:27
6 2:45
7
Air
3:17
8 2:40
9 0:58
10 1:17
11
(-)
4:13
Water Music, HWV 349
12
(-)
2:02
13
(-)
4:02
Water Music, HWV 350
14
(-)
2:30
15
(-)
1:08
16
(-)
0:50
17 0:39
Water Music, HWV 349
18 2:15
19
(-)
1:14
Water Music, HWV 350
20 0:50
21
(-)
1:24
22
(-)
0:30
23
(-)
0:32
24 0:35
Water Music, HWV 349
25 2:19
Concerto Grosso, op. 6,11, HWV 329
26 4:23
27 1:37
28 0:29
29 4:06
30 5:35
blue highlight denotes track pick