Handel 'Oxford' Water Music

AVIE Records AV0028
1 CD
full price
Recorded in 2002.
Released in 2003.

  • Handel: Trio Sonata in G major, Op 5 No 4 (HWV 399)
  • Leclair: Première recréation de musique in D major, Op 6
  • Corelli: Trio Sonata in G major, Op 2 No 12
  • Corelli: Trio Sonata in C major, Op 1, No 7
  • Geminiani: Sonata V in A minor
  • Handel: Oxford Water Music Suite in F major*
  • Handel: Oxford Water Music Suite in G minor*
  • Handel: Oxford Water Music Suite in D major*
  • Handel: Trio Sonata in B-flat major, Op 2 No 3 (HWV 388)

The Brook Street Band (on period instruments)

*Edited by Tatty Theo.


Handel’s music forms a substantial part of this debut disc by The Brook Street Band. It is curious that Avie released this enjoyable disc at around the same time as it also released the superb disc of Handel’s Opus 2 trio sonatas performed by Monica Huggett’s Sonnerie. Both discs are impressive, and the direct comparison of Opus 2 No. 3 (featured on both discs) does nobody harm: the two chamber ensembles both present marvelous bright performances of Handel’s music, and each has interesting things to say distinct from each other. 

The Brook Street Band, as founder/director Tatty Theo explains in her recent Gfhandel.org interview, is a versatile group that swells or diminishes according to the forces required by the music. In this case, the ‘Water Music’ is performed in an intriguing chamber version that was discovered by Donald Burrows in manuscript part-books at Christchurch College, Oxford. We know very little about this manuscript’s origins, and it is not in Handel’s hand, but perhaps it originates from Handel’s time working for James Brydges at Cannons (1717-1719). Tatty Theo examined the part-books when she was a student at Oxford, and has prepared her own performing edition for this recording that is tailored for The Brook Street Band. 

The players give Theo’s arrangement an ideal performance: The continuo is lively yet never obtrusive, and the solo instruments (oboe, violins, and recorder) each take their turn with spontaneous playfulness. Despite the most obvious feature of interest being the chamber version of ‘Water Music’, there are also some enjoyable performances of music by Corelli, Leclair, and Geminiani. The band performs these skillfully, but the most memorable elements on this disc are of the two Handel trio sonatas, which are played with humour, integrity, and possess a sense of being taken on a journey. While the music always travels forward, it is also notable that the band’s well-proportioned balance produces even performances that indicate teamwork rather than several eccentric maestros pulling in different directions. This is not the only way to approach this music, but is a method I find appealing and that I shall return to listening to with pleasure. This is a promising debut, and I look forward to discovering what might come next from this talented young group.

© David Vickers - February 2004

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