Handel Water Music PinnockGeorg Friedrich Handel

Water Music

The English Concert

on authentic instruments

Trevor Pinnock, conductor

Archiv, 1984

About eight in the evening the King repaired to His barge, into which were admitted the Duchess of Bolton, Countess Godolphin, Mad. de Kilmanseck, Mrs. Were and the Earl of Orkney, the Gentleman of the Bedchamber in Waiting. Next to the King’s barge was that of the musicians, about 50 in number, who played on all kinds of instruments, to wit trumpets, horns, hautboys, bassoons, German flutes, French flutes, violins and basses; but there were no singers. The music had been composed specially by the famous Handel, a native of Halle, and His Majesty’s principal Court Composer. His Majesty approved of it so greatly that he caused it to be repeated three times in all, although each performance lasted an hour – namely twice before and once after supper. The [weather in the] evening was all that could be desired for the festivity, the number of barges and above all of boats filled with people desirous of hearing was beyond counting. In order to make this entertainment the more exquisite, Mad. de Kilmanseck had arranged a choice supper in the late Lord Ranelagh’s villa at Chelsea on the river, where the King went at one in the morning. He left at three o’clock and returned to St. James’ about half past four. The concert cost Baron Kilmanseck £150 for the musicians alone.

From the account written by the Prussian Ambassador Frederic Bonet

This can be considered one of the finest recordings of Georg Friedrich Handel’s masterpiece Water Music, a work that, composed on the occasion of the trip made by King George I from Whitehall to Chelsea on 17th July 1717, became one of the favourite compositions of all time.

Conductor Trevor Pinnock was in a state of grace when he recorded Water Music with The English Concert. The same sweetness, delicacy and refinement with which he characterized Handel’s music will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find elsewhere. Pinnock does not seem particularly interested in the vibrancy of Handel’s music, though this is a feature that is not disregarded, but he tends to accentuate the nobility of the work – a nobility of the highest level, an inner one.

Before everything else, it is the choice of tempos that have so effectively determined this outcome. Thanks to the relaxed but never idle music, Pinnock has the time to give prominence to precious colours and nuances and Water Music, a work that is usually associated with lightness and leisure, becomes surprisingly stimulating.

It is to be noticed that the Suites in D major and the Suite in G major are considered here as combined, a philological detail that has its reason in the presentation of some of the early printed texts. Anyway, the last Suite (in G major) is the best despite the excellent quality of the first two. Here the music becomes markedly sweet, it can be said romantic, and the abandon to these exquisite melodies is particularly effective in the two Menuet and in the Gigue.