HANDEL: Water Music; Music for the Royal Fireworks – Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon – Naxos

by | Apr 4, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

HANDEL: Water Music; Music for the Royal Fireworks – Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon – Naxos DVD-A (also DTS 5.1 and DD 5.1) 5.110115, 70:49 ****:

This may be the last DVD-A to be issued by Naxos, so it’s going out with a bang, so to speak. Naxos has decided neither DVD-A nor SACD formats are producing enough sales for the world’s biggest classical record label and they are sitting out the format battle for awhile. None of their hi-res discs were recorded directly to DSD and some were only 44.1K or 48K; this may explain the poor sales amongst audiophiles. However, they are continuing to record the larger works they produce in surround sound to be future-proof.

The jewel box no longer boasts ” 5.0 44.1K PCM” but the surround sonics of this disc are excellent in both the MLP and DTS surround options. The majority of the disc is devoted to the three Water Music Suites.  It is not known what specific pieces of this outdoor music were playing during the famous excursion of the royal party up and down the Thames in 1717, it is surmised that most of the music in these three suites was used at that time. The Royal Fireworks Music was composed towards the end of Handel’s, in 1749, to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. The shorter work has only five sections.  Stokowski’s recording years ago for RCA used the sound of actual fireworks in the final movement; Irish conductor Mallon eschews that practice but he gets sufficient musical fireworks out of this players that one doesn’t miss it.

Thought not completely surrounding the listener as with the Tacet hi-res discs, the feeling of an outdoor performance seems more tangible with the surround display on this recording.  Perhaps it’s only the instrumentation of the suites. The Aradia Ensemble is not symphony-orchestra-sized as on Stoky’s recording, but somehow that seems more realistic considering the original functional use of this music. A nice little feature in the Fireworks suite is the inclusion in La Paix of a transverse wooden flute as called for in the original manuscript.

— John Sunier

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