Various Artists

Handel: Fireworks Music

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Deutsche Grammophon's greatest-hits collection, Handel: Fireworks Music, appears a little spotty in its selections and variable in the performances, which were taken from recordings made between 1963 and 1993. Rafael Kubelik's renditions of Music for the Royal Fireworks and two movements from the Water Music Suite in F major are the oldest on the disc and, intermittently, the harshest sounding in the analog reproduction. Though the Berlin Philharmonic puts considerable energy into its playing, the lack of period style and the flat and abrasive sound of the full orchestra make these offerings unsatisfactory. Much better are the elegant performances of the Concerto Grosso in G major, Op. 6/1, and the ever popular "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" by the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which were recorded digitally in 1993 and 1989, respectively. Both selections have the characteristic sheen of historically informed Baroque practice, and the playing is exquisite. But the benefits of these tracks are somewhat undercut by the performances by Karl Richter and the Munich Bach Orchestra, which date from 1970 and present the Concerto Grosso in C major, "Alexander's Feast," and the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah in fairly stiff interpretations with less than crisp sound. With just two pieces presented ideally, this compilation is a disappointment, and worthwhile only for steering listeners to Orpheus' stellar playing, which can be appreciated on Deutsche Grammophon's compilation of the Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, with Music for the Royal Fireworks and the complete Water Music, to boot.

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