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Robert Levine
ClassicsToday.com, July 2006

Kevin Mallon leads a Toronto-based, 34-person group of period instrumentalists called the Aradia Ensemble on this new, bargain issue, and it’s a terrific, ear-opening show. The music is, above all, joyful, with dance movements galore and plenty of giddy pomp. Mallon has rethought the tempos, almost all of which, he feels, should be quicker than we’re accustomed to hearing. If you listen to the Air, the fourth movement to Suite No. 1, you’ll be surprised at how good it sounds played without the usual serious “aura” that drags it down.

Mallon also adds side-drum and tambourines to a couple of the movements, and they add jollity and jauntiness; only a whiner would object. There’s a thin line in this music between too ostentatious and too mild, and by keeping his forces slim and his tempos original and suited to the music, he avoids being either. When the trumpets and horns ring out they don’t blare, and in La Paix from the Royal Fireworks Music, when Mallon uses transverse flutes (as suggested in the original manuscript), the effect is magical rather than just mellow. Listen to the overture of the Royal Fireworks, brass blasting, drums being banged with wooden-headed sticks, all at a military tempo that implies forward propulsion rather than combative stodginess.

This is both a bargain and a terrific reading. Highly recommended, and right to the top of the list. © 2006 ClassicsToday.com Read complete review




Bill Rankin
Edmonton Journal, 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.



David Vickers
Gramophone

Mallon’s performance is exemplary. Handel’s melodies are nicely shaped, with colourful accompaniments that range between assertive energy and understated pathos. Resonant horns and elegant trumpets synthesise stylish wit and regal pomp in the famous ‘Alla hornpipe’ (Suite No 2). Brightness and subtlety co-exist with a charismatic swagger.

Mallon’s sense of an attractive flowing pulse in the music carries through to the Music for the Royal Fireworks. The Ouverture has crisp, articulate phrasing, in which important details are stressed and then shade away to allow the next musical detail to come to the fore. The zesty Aradia Ensemble never succumb to monotonous tub-thumping. © Gramophone Read complete review





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