Handel: Music For The Royal Fireworks, Etc / Tafelmusik
It hasn’t been done before, but it makes excellent sense to devote a CD to the three Concerti a due cori and the Music for the Royal Fireworks – the four pieces of large-scale entertainment music from Handel’s late years. Here the Fireworks Music is done in the form, with strings as well as wind, that Handel preferred. The less familiar Concerti a due cori were composed in the late 1740s for use in the intervals of oratorio performances – their usual title is something of a misnomer, as they are really for three groups, a string band and two choirs of wind instruments (oboes, bassoon and horns in Nos. 2 and 3, just oboes and bassoon in No. 1). They borrow freely from other works – in particular Messiah (at the time scarcely known to London audiences) and Belshazzar – and some of the movements seem a little odd in shape because the structure is dictated, in the originals, by the texts; but they are cheerful, outgoing pieces and make very attractive listening, undemanding but, typically, touching here and there on deeper feeling.
These performances are splendidly spirited and enjoyable on every plane. Tafelmusik tend to favour speedy tempos in Handel. In the Fireworks Music “La paix” is taken steadily but it is all very nicely judged, and I liked in particular the jauntiness they bring to the main Allegro of the overture, making it a shade more detached than usual to good effect. Handel’s directions for the repeats in the dance movements are decidedly ambiguous, and Tafelmusik make sensible decisions of their own which don’t always quite accord with the instructions but work perfectly well. Once or twice there is a stylish lilt, almost a hint of inegalite, in the dances. The band sounds a big one, but the strings are only 126.96.36.199.2, with a fair number of wind – six oboes, three bassoons, four horns and three trumpets, with percussion (their collective intonation is as good as one has any right to expect). In the concertos, there is some first-rate wind playing, especially from the two first oboists, who match one another delightfully in their athleticism, their articulation and their sweetness of tone (notably in the finale of No. 2), and there is a fine, earthy ring from the horns throughout. One or two tempos may strike you as quickish; no one would think of singing “And the glory of the Lord” as fast as Tafelmusik play Handel’s transcription of it, but after all there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be done this way on instruments.
-- Stanley Sadie, Gramophone [10/1998]
Catalog Number: SONY63073
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Conductor: Jeanne Lamon
Orchestra/Ensemble: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Performer: Derek Conrod, John Abberger, Julie Brye, Michael McCraw, Nadina Mackie Jackson, Ronald George, Stanley King, Teresa Wasiak, Thomas Müller, Washington McClain