I mentioned this recording briefly in my Download
News 2013/13, based on hearing the 24-bit and mp3 downloads from eclassical.com
I’m pleased to have this opportunity to compare the sound on the
CD and SACD tracks with the various qualities of download. I’m
also happy to report that re-hearing the performances has made me increase
my estimation of them.
I wrote in that brief notice of the download:
Distinguished playing on this new recording but, unless you must
have 24-bit sound, the King’s Consort on budget-price Hyperion
Helios CDH55375 (see April 2012/1 DL Roundup
) and Trevor Pinnock (DG Archiv) are
both a little lighter on their feet, couple the Water
with the Fireworks Music
and offer better
value. The DG recording, on 2 CDs, also adds several other orchestral works;
see DL Roundup April 2009
for review of earlier single-CD
release and comparison with Hervé Niquet on Glossa.
It remains true that the Hyperion, DG and Glossa recordings are very
well worth considering and that, on CD as well as in download form, the
Hyperion and DG represent excellent value. The Glossa is now available
either as an SACD at full price (GCDSA921616) or as a download for around
£8. Hyperion and Glossa also include the Fireworks Music
single CD; DG run to a second disc but at budget price and with the addition
of a suite from the rarely heard Occasional Oratorio
attractive music (477 9987).
Manfred Huss concludes with just the attractive Overture to the
. That means that he clocks in at only just over
the hour - not a problem with the eclassical.com download, where a
per-second charging policy reduces the price for mp3 and 16-bit lossless to
a very reasonable $9.23 ($14.76 for 24-bit) but it’s a consideration
for the budget-conscious with the SACD.
The BIS recording emerges from renewed hearing as a good deal
livelier and more stylish than I gave it credit for. The opening
of Suite I is a shade faster than Pinnock or King - Niquet
runs that movement and the following adagio e staccato
almost exactly the same tempo as Manfred Huss. Try track 19, Gigue
and II, if you need further proof: Huss is a few seconds faster here than
Niquet, Pinnock or King; on DG and Hyperion these gigues
It’s been known for some time that the belief that Handel
intended three separate suites was mistaken, so it’s slightly
misleading of BIS to use that terminology. In fact, as is pointed out in the
booklet, the 2007 edition employed here, based on the oldest-known
manuscript source, from before 1718, rearranges the music as a single suite.
It has been the practice for some time to run Suites II and III together, so
the new recording is not as ground-breaking as it might seem: it’s in
line with King and Pinnock in that respect, except that Huss reshuffles
items from Suites II/III in a different order from either of them.
If you approach natural horns with temerity - they can sound very
fruity - track 8 (bourrée
) should reassure you. All the
advantages of period instruments, then, with none of the hazards. If the
Overture to the Occasional Oratorio
takes your fancy, you may wish to
try the only available recording of the whole work, from the King’s
Consort on Hyperion CDA66961/2.
As for comparing the various versions of this recording, I’ll
simply say that it sounds well in all the formats that I have tried.
It’s even so good in mp3 and on the CD tracks of the disc that the
24-bit and SACD versions add only a little.
I’d still go for the King’s Consort on that budget-price
Hyperion recording as my prime suggestion. There’s another budget
recording that I haven’t yet mentioned, from the Aradia Ensemble and
Kevin Mallon (Naxos 8.557764). That offers lively accounts of the Water
and Fireworks Music
but it divides the music into three
suites and specialists may well be offended by the extraneous percussion
which Mallon adds - love it or hate it, you could try it from Naxos Music
Library, where you will also find the new BIS recording, Niquet on Glossa
and several other recordings.
I should also mention Thurston Dart’s recordings of the three
Suites with Philomusica of London - decent stereo from 1959 combining
cutting-edge academic knowledge of the time with stylish performances which
are still well worth hearing in Beulah’s inexpensive transfer: Beulah
Extra 1-3BX69 - see December 2010 DL Roundup
; not to be confused with George
Weldon’s very different recording of the Water Music Suite
the same page.
I have the Mallon on CD and it’s fun the first time round but
I have to admit that it never comes out now, whereas the Hyperion and Beulah
recordings do - as, I’m sure, will the new BIS recording, which is
more competitive than I earlier gave it credit for and a must if
you’re looking for SACD or 24-bit sound.
Masterwork Index: Handels'