George Frederick Handel

Water Music Suite No. 2 for orchestra in D major, HWV 349

    Description by Blair Johnston

    There is a story that George Frideric Handel's magnificent Water Music was originally intended as a peace offering to King George I, for duties to the former Elector of Hanover left unfulfilled by Handel. As the story goes, Handel seized the opportunity in 1717 to provide some musical entertainment for the King's now-famous barge party on the River Thames, and was restored in the royal eye. George I was completely enamored with the Water Music (asking for the hour-long work to be repeated three times and not returning to the palace until the wee hours) and all past transgressions were immediately forgotten. There was indeed a grand party on the Thames on July 17, 1717, during which some of Handel's music (possibly but not definitely the Water Music) was played, but the rest of the story is likely highly fictionalized.

    It appears that Handel drew upon three already-composed suites of instrumental music when putting together the Water Music; for the Water Music Suite No. 2 in D major, HWV 349, Handel has added a pair of trumpets to the robust ensemble of two oboes, two horns, strings, and basso continuo that he used in the Water Music Suite No. 1.

    The first of the Suite's five pieces is the only substantial through-composed movement to be found in it (the rest are all dances of one kind or another). Although given no heading by Handel, this fast-tempo movement is composed in very normal Baroque overture style, starting off with an accompanied trumpet fanfare and soon moving on to ponder a regal dotted-note motive that brings the French Overture to mind. The crystalline brilliance of Handel's scoring is plain from the start -- witness the fiery descending string scales that support the opening trumpet blast and, a while later, the virtuoso sixteenth notes of the trumpets themselves.

    After this overture movement comes a little musicological trouble, as the hornpipe dance included in some printed editions is very often replaced in performance and print by an entirely different dance (also a hornpipe). The more commonly-played of the two hornpipes is certainly one of Handel's most famous instrumental compositions, filled with wonderful syncopations and, during the middle of the first of the dance's two (quite lengthy) halves, some charming interplay between the trumpets, horns and strings.

    Although most often called a minuet on account of its triple meter, the stately, binary-form piece that comes third in the D major Suite in fact carries the heading "Coro," or Chorus.

    The Lentement that follows (the indication is Handel's own), is a delicate thing, rolling gently along on dotted quarter-eighth-quarter rhythms and providing just enough minor mode contrast in its second section to make the da capo reprise of the opening taste all the sweeter.

    Handel marks the following Air -- really in the rapid style of the bourrée -- to be played three times all told, leaving it up to the musicians to decide what, if any, textural contrasts might be nice each time around.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro in D major
    2. Alla Hornpipe in D major [Allegro deciso]
    3. Menuet in D major
    4. Lentement in D major
    5. Bourée in D major

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 ABC Classics
    2018 ABC Classics
    2017 ABC / ABC Classics
    2017 Accent ACC 26407
    2017 Naxos 8503293
    2017 Brilliant Classics BRI 95608
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902216
    2016 ABC Classics ABC 4812516
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95050BR
    2015 K-Tel 136145
    2014 United Audio Entertainment USA 16015405
    2014 United Audio / United Audio Entertainment TC 53382
    2013 BIS BIS 2027
    2013 Naïve NC 40038
    2013 AAO Music PWM 71062
    2013 Erato
    2013 United Classics T 2CD2012127
    2013 MDG MDGSC 9051828
    2012 Naxos 8501061
    2012 Decca / Universal
    2012 Decca 4783357
    2012 EMI Classics
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94214
    2011 Glossa 922209
    2011 Red Bus Classical RCLAS 037
    2011 Brilliant Classics 93779
    2011 ABC Classics ABC4764300
    2011 Erato 2564676062
    2011 Haenssler / Hänssler / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler CD 94601
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Dooload. De / Zebralution
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2010 Naïve V 5234
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Cantate 58040
    2010 Philips
    2010 Vox 8205
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Berlin Classics 0149572
    2009 Delta / Zebralution
    2009 Delta / Zebralution
    2009 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH08075
    2009 Warner Classics / Wcj 2564 69551-7
    2009 Decca
    2009 Decca 4781190
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93268
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 4586472
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099926433
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Ambroisie 192
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Glossa 921616
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
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    2008 Alia Vox 9860
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    2008 Berlin Classics 0014312BC
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    2002 L'Oiseau-Lyre 433523
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    2001 St. Clair 7379
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    2001 T-Rax B45
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    2001 Lifestyles 315019
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    2000 Angel Records 61656
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    1999 London 458 333-2LC8
    1999 Seraphim UK / Warner Classics 7243573288
    1999 Philips 434122
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    1995 Laserlight 55009
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    1995 ZYX Music CLS4144
    1995 ZYX Music 1001
    1995 Laserlight 35815
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    1994 Sony Classical 64066
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    1993 EMI Music Distribution 67716
    1993 Harmonia Mundi 390804
    1993 Astree 8512
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    1991 Capriccio Records 10987
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    1990 EMI Music Distribution 49810
    1990 Philips 416447
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    1982 Erato 88005
    RCA 69130
    Laserlight 35606
    Harmonia Mundi 290804
    Sony Music Distribution 61988
    Brilliant 99986/1
    ZYX Classics 1021
    Brilliant 92390/26
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    Digital Concerto 671
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    L'Oiseau-Lyre 421476
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    EMI Music Distribution 69809
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    Masters of the Millennium 2006
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    Vox 7100
    Decca 475 8073DB5