Handel / Water Music / Marriner

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  • Super Hot sound on side , 8 of the 9 movements of Suite No. 1
  • White Hot Demo Disc sound on side two for the last movement and Suites 2&3
  • One of our two favorite performances – Marriner gets it like few others do
  • An exceptionally dynamic recording that gets QUIET like live music

This White Hot Stamper has a number of exceptionally attractive qualities, the most notable of which is how quiet the music can be during some of the quieter passages. This is a sound that we did not hear on any of the more than a dozen Water Music recordings we played, which of course is what accounts for it being so striking to the ear. Records rarely are quiet the way live orchestral music can be in performance, compression being the order of the day when the tape is rolling.

Running neck and neck with the Leppard performance we liked so much, the choice between the Marriner and that one is probably a matter of taste. Each is superb. Each sets a standard that will be hard for any other pressing to achieve. And the ’70s Philips vinyl is going to be impossible to beat, certainly with any Golden Age pressing we know of.

An Overview

The modern version of The Water Music contains three separate suites, referred to as Suite No. I, Suite No. 2 and Suite No. 3, each of which is in a different key, and each of which makes use of different instrumentation. Suite No. 1 is the one that will be most familiar to you, 2 and 3 quite a bit less so. Click on the Water Music tab above to read more about the work.

On this record, 8 of the 9 movements in Suite No. 1 are on side one.

Side Two

White Hot, and Hard To Fault (HTF). It’s clear, with lovely texture to the strings. The low bass strings are shockingly well-recorded; we did not hear that sound on any other pressing we played. The sound is dynamic but never harsh.

Side one

Big, clear and present.

LA Phil Background on The Water Music

The Water Music dates from Handel’s first years in England, where he arrived in 1710, officially on leave from recent employment in the Elector of Hanover’s court. He returned again in 1712 and stayed permanently after ingratiating himself with Queen Anne, who awarded him a lifetime pension of 200 pounds a year — enough to live on. In 1714, the Elector of Hanover became George I of England on Anne’s death and, far from showing displeasure with his ex-employee, doubled Handel’s royal pension.phili

Indeed, Handel was faring better than the king was. George, who never learned to speak English and brought with him a German inner circle and two German mistresses, was roundly disliked as a foreigner more interested in Hanover than in England. His way of softening the English power structure’s harsh, if essentially accurate, view of him was to entertain it with barge parties.

We know there were royal parties on the Thames in the summers of 1715, 1716, and 1717. Handel probably provided music for those occasions, but the only account that actually mentions him is a letter from Friedrich Bonet, a Prussian diplomat, describing a party on July 17, 1717.

At about eight in the evening the King repaired to his barge. Next to the King’s barge was that of the musicians, about 50 in number – trumpets, horns, oboes, German [i.e, transverse] flutes, French flutes [i.e. recorders], violins, and basses, but no singers. The music had been composed specially by the famous Handel, a native of Halle and his Majesty’s principal court composer. His Majesty’s approval of it was so great that he caused it to be played three times in all, twice before and once after supper, even though each performance lasted an hour. The evening was as fine as could be desired for this occasion and the number of barges and boats full of people wanting to listen was beyond counting.

Though Bonet’s account describes the length and instrumentation of the Water Music more or less as we know it today, the earliest surviving score of “the celebrated Water Musick” dates from the 1730s, after Handel had been using the music in his theatrical presentations just as he used concertos, likely making changes for those occasions as was his practice. As we now know it, the Water Music consists of the two suites on this program – the “horn” suite in F and the “flute” suite in G – and a “trumpet” suite in D.

Typically for Handel, the suites don’t fit any particular mold. The G-major Suite consists of movements that are dances in all but name (Handel did not give them all titles). The F-major Suite is a sort of extended modified French suite, with a stately Lullian beginning to its Overture and some dance movements interspersed with non-dance movements. Handel’s striking use of the horns would have been all the more remarkable in 1717, when horns were rare in orchestras. As far as anyone knows, neither Handel nor any English composer had used horns before, but they have more prominent role in the Water Music than the solo violins in the concerto that opens this program.

Wikipedia on The Water Music

Suite (Nr. 25)

A1 1. Ouverture
A2 2. Adagio E Staccato
A3 3. (Allegro) – Andante – (Allegro)
A4 4. Allegro
A5 5. Air
A6 6. Menuet
A7 7. Bourrée
A8 8. Hornpipe

There is evidence for the different arrangement found in Chrysander’s Gesellschaft edition of Handel’s works (in volume 47, published in 1886), where the movements from the “suites” in D and G were mingled and published as one work with HWV 348. This sequence derives from Samuel Arnold’s first edition of the complete score in 1788 and the manuscript copies dating from Handel’s lifetime.

All Music Guide

Rivaled only by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Neville Marriner was one of the most important of the early figures who spearheaded the reawakening of modern interest in Baroque and early Classical music. In the 1950s, he founded Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the first British early music ensemble to find a large international audience. Marriner has since become one of the most popular conductors in the world, acclaimed for his interpretations of composers from Bach to Britten.

Marriner was first taught the violin as a child, by his father, and attended the Royal College of Music, beginning at age thirteen. Wounded during World War II, he met future collaborator Thurston Dart during his hospitalization. In 1948 he became professor at the Royal Academy of Music. As well as joining the Martin String Quartet as second violin, he formed a violin-and-harpsichord duet with Dart, and their performances led to the formation of the Jacobean Ensemble, an early music group that recorded the Purcell trio sonatas in 1950. Around this time, he began studying conducting with Pierre Monteux at Monteux’s school in Maine. Marriner’s reputation in general music circles also grew; in 1956 he was appointed principal second violin with the London Symphony Orchestra.

A turning point came in 1959, when Marriner was asked to supply music for the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, in London’s Trafalgar Square. Marriner formed a chamber orchestra which he named the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The group’s work attracted the attention of the Decca imprint L’Oiseau Lyre, which recorded its performance of Couperin’s Les Nations. Favorable reviews and unexpectedly robust sales of this recording led to more recordings for L’Oiseau Lyre and its sister label Argo, and by the end of the 1970s the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields had become the best-selling chamber orchestra in recorded music’s history. The group expanded from 13 players to twenty or more, and performed Classical symphonic works and twentieth century British music as well as Baroque material. The sound of Marriner’s Academy recordings is crisp, with an extremely bright sound, using period performance standards with modern instruments. Marriner’s name remains closely associated with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and the group now has more than 300 recordings to its credit. These include the soundtrack for the 1984 film Amadeus, for which Marriner selected, arranged, and directed works of Salieri and Pergolesi, in addition to Mozart.

In 1969 Marriner organized the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and he later took this orchestra on a tour of Europe. Additionally, he served as a guest conductor with leading U.S. orchestras, and in England held an appointment as conductor of the Northern Sinfonia, based in Newcastle. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he spent most of his time in the U.S., primarily as music director and conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra. After being knighted in 1985, Marriner went back to Europe, conducting of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1986-1989. Since then, he has conducted around the world, including at the Opéra de Lyon, and continues to record.

His conducting is known for its vitality and brightness, as well as precise ensemble technique, a reflection of his violinist days. In a 1991 interview he said of his style: “I was never a potentate swinging a scepter, but was always in a dialogue with my musicians.”

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