Georg Friedrich Handel
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Harmonia Mundi, 2015
«On Wednesday the 17th of July, in the Evening, the King, attended by their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, and a numerous Train of Lords, Gentleman, and Ladies, went up by Water to Chelsea, and was entertain’d with an excellent Consort of Musick».
This is in short the account of the event that inspired to Georg Friedrich Handel his Water Music, one of many compositions he had to write for festive occasions and one of the most successful ones, as it was repeated thrice at its “premiere”. Those who know Water Music will certainly share the royal enthusiasm, but it is necessary to point out that actually we do not know what the King and his guests heard on that occasion, as no autograph of Water Music survives and the present performances are based on an assemblage made in 1717.
Among Handel’s “occasional music”, Water Music is one of the favourite works of all time. This preference gives rise to a multiplicity of live and studio recording of all kinds, so that the listener has an embarrassingly wide choice.
Among this multitude, the studio recording of the accomplished Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is one of those that difficultly will be disappointing. This is one of those albums that are performed with incredible enthusiasm and skill and that, for these reasons, combine effectively the most fluid and bright sound with outstanding technical skill.
The ensemble, led by Georg Kallweit, plays harmoniously together and offers a joyous rendition of this beautiful Baroque music. The tempos are rather fast and joyful pieces as the Bourrée from the Suite no. 2 are even more livelier (and as thunderous as a march), but this does not prevent to create suave moments as the Menuet or the Lentement from the Suite no. 2, or the melancholic Menuet from the Suite no. 3, although the instruments do not seem to focus on the contemplative side more than necessary and immediately return to brief flashes of joy, as it happens in the Gigue from the Suite no. 3.
From the emotional point of view, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin privileges a magnificent rendition of Handel’s Water Music where the effectiveness of the musical message is committed mainly to the flow of the music, but this is so fluid and natural that neither misunderstanding nor failure is possible. Overall, this is a really fine recording.