This is a major addition to an admittedly well stocked sector of the Handel discography. The happy inspiration of these two staples, however, welcomes any newcomer with something interesting to say, or some new standard of quality to suggest. In the case of Mallon and his Toronto-based ensemble, they combine a New World sort of jaunty ambling spirit with, when needed, a very convincing Handelian mixture of pomp, real dignity and depth. Mallon, who talks of visiting the Henry Watson Music Library in Manchester when he was a young student (with John Eliot Gardiner, no less) to look at an 18th century score of the Water Music, seems to be a rising star in Naxos’ Handel firmament – his next release is a recording of the extravaganza Rinaldo.
Mallon also introduces (or, more accurately, re-introduces) the notion of crescendos in Handel, which makes a lot of sense and creates a lot of excitement. Mallon uses this to great effect in track 11, after the first run-through leading to the final statement of the main tune. In a world of brutal commercial reality, of course, the competition is very great, but it would be foolish not to become acquainted with Mallon’s highly imaginative and, at times, transforming approach to Handel.
Although it begs the question of whether surround sound is appropriate for music that was meant to be played outdoors, it does enable the Naxos engineers to exploit the percussion in the Fireworks music as well as some unusual instrumental excursions in the Water Music (a side-drum in track 6 and again in 15) and a transverse flute in track 20 where the effect is magical.
– Laurence Vittes