, March 2006
Slow Water Music equals stagnant Water Music in Kevin Mallon's mind. The conductor of Toronto's Aradia Ensemble argues in the notes for this Naxos recording of Handel's barge party music and Music for his Royal Fireworks that because he saw a "Presto" marking on the famous Air in an 18th-century score of Water Music, the overture and dances needed more pace, "bringing the music alive."
Well the music is certainly quicker and it's played well, but I wouldn't necessarily call more stately tempi "lugubrious" as Mallon does. I'd call them, well, stately, majestic, dignified.
The winds are in the sails of this recording of Water Music, but you can imagine that if this is all that the band had to play as King George and his guests floated down the Thames, they'd probably be repeating the program to fill time.
Mallon has also added some percussion, a little tambourine in the Hornpipe in Suite No. 1, and it's a nice touch, harkening back to music composed a few centuries earlier. They also use a side drum for a military effect in parts of the Fireworks, and add a transverse flute, based on Mellon's research, to the La Paix in the Fireworks.
Naxos CDs are always economical. This original treatment of pieces we've heard in a certain way for years has its merits, but there certainly isn't anything intrinsically morbid about slow music. If the peppy approach to the Water Music irks, wait for the opening of Overture of the Fireworks, which is a bit quicker than some renditions, but is full of pomp and regality.