Because authentic Baroque performance practices have become so widely accepted, the appearance of Bernard Labadie's excellent 2007 recording of George Frideric Handel's Water Music might not seem exceptional; the use of period instruments by his superb chamber ensemble, Les Violons du Roy, might not seem extraordinary to anyone who has heard recordings of eighteenth century music since the 1980s. Yet there's a cost to being blasé about historically informed performances, and even the most jaded listener must shake off the dismissive attitude that it's all been done before. Granted, Labadie's performance of Water Music follows what is expected, so the three suites follow the conventional order, and the original instrumentation is uncontroversial; even the choice of the Overture and "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from the oratorio Solomon as filler is not especially noteworthy. But the freshness of this ensemble's timbres, the sensitivity of its dynamics, the elegance of its phrasing, and its joyous articulation of Handel's dance rhythms, makes this recording a delight and give it the joie de vivre it needs to stand among the dozen or so first-rate versions of these familiar pieces. Will this recording replace cherished period renditions by Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, or other masters of authentic practices? Probably not, and most collectors will be content with their favorite version. Others who are new to the suites, however, will be quite pleased with this CD and enjoy hearing Water Music in Atma's vibrant and clear reproduction.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Water Music Suites Nos 1-3 for orchestra, HWV 348-350|
|Solomon, oratorio, HWV 67|