Concerti Grossi Opus 6
Music for the Royal Fireworks
Deutsche Grammophon ‘Trio’ 471 758-2
Recorded between 1990-4
Reissued in 2002
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (on modern instruments)
Note: Originally released in 1992 (HWV 348-351) and 1996 (Opus 6)
In a memorable episode of the TV show Frasier, two brothers are tempted to abscond from an important event because they have been lucky enough to get tickets for a concert by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Frasier exclaims with giddy anticipation that “Nobody can handle Handel like they can handle Handel!”
Well, maybe not quite. However, these performances maintain the principle that good musicianship is always the most valid factor, and that stylish interpretation is never simply an isolated issue of how the strings are made or how fast the tempos are. My only quibble is that the harpsichord is far too discreet in the Opus 6 concerti grossi, and this is repertoire that surely demands a much more focused and prominent role for the keyboard continuo player. Yet there is abundant evidence of beautiful musicianship at work, and some exceptionally lovely phrasing makes the overall experience pleasurable.
The grand overture to the Fireworks Music is remarkably brisk, the players keep matters exceptionally clean and precise, and Handel’s dance rhythms in the Water Music are consistently well articulated. Yet these performances suffer slightly from sounding like they are on automatic pilot, even though they are superficially pleasing and technically superb.
A major consideration of these discs has to be its excellent value. They have been reissued together as a ‘Trio’ set, which, at a low price, is well worth buying if you want some good performances of Handel’s most important orchestral works played on modern instruments. Those usually wanting only period instruments in this repertoire may have their preconceptions challenged, but will still probably prefer recordings of Opus 6 by Manze (Harmonia Mundi), Standage (Chandos), Hogwood (Decca), or Pinnock (also on DG).
© David Vickers - November 2002
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