HANDEL: Suites from Water Music and Royal Fireworks Music –
RCA Victor Symphony/ Leopold Stokowski – HDTT CD-R 43:56 ***:

One could argue that anything recorded by Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) was by nature “high definition,” since the conductor put a premium on sonic projection and orchestral polish in everything he inscribed. These restorations are particularly lush, overripe Handel; but for the audiophile, they will be most welcome. Stokowski utilizes a harpsichord continuo, snare drum, and a full complement of horns and winds to provide ample pomp and ceremony to the river-barge proceedings. I still prefer the Boyling edition that Yehudi Menuhin employed, which alternates the accents rather than literally repeating the figures. Still, alternating between pageantry and intimacy, Stokowski’s Romantic sensibility plays the 12 selections from Water Music for their motley range of colors and blended effects, the uncredited oboe solo’s contributing a poignant adagio. The hornpipes enjoy a breezy, outdoor muscularity. Consistently agile and snappy work in the snare and kettledrum parts.

The Stokowski homogeneity of sound is always crisp, easily reminiscent of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s legendary discipline, startling in its ability to diminuendo or crescendo on a dime. The antiphons are worthy of the Venetian sound that Gabrieli and Vivaldi cherished. The 6 sections of the Royal Fireworks Music prove equally opulent – sonic Cinemascope. The ceremonial and declamatory lines in Handel assume the proportions of oratorio in symphonic synthesis, which is of course what the composer often did: compositional recycling. The last movement features a full panoply of fireworks, Handel meeting the 1812 Overture. If producer Mike Todd could have become a conductor, he would have been Stokowski.

[Note that your disc player must be able to play back CD-Rs in order to play this disc; many older CD players cannot do so. But HDTT titles are also available on DVD-video, which will play on any DVD player – except that older players may downconvert the 96K signal to 48K (still better than standard CD)…Ed.]

— Gary Lemco