"This six disc set encompassing most of Handel's concertos (including the big Op. 3 and Op. 6 sets) consists of recordings made from 1981 to 1984. It's well worth having for the excellent Op. 6 set alone, which was previously available only in the form of three separately-packaged, full-priced CDs. Pinnock and the English Concert play with smoothness and finesse, and the recordings collected here range from very good to excellent. The Royal Fireworks Music, like the Op. 6 set, is on the excellent side; the Op. 3 perhaps less sparkling but never dull or below par. The Water Music was (understandably) a best-seller in its original release. At this kind of price, and with this kind of playing, the English Concert set should be a cornerstone of any Handel-lover's CD collection."
Pinnock Excels in Handel!
Frank Ryan | London, UK | 01/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Oddly, this is currently available (at least in the UK) in two packages and at different prices. Pinnock's style might not be to everyone's taste (you can't please allthe people all the time ...etc), but it is mine. These are generally superb performances of sublime music. I would rank them as my "period" recordings of choice, along with Marriner's on Decca for "non-period". Enjoy!"
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought the third Opus 6 individual disc on a whim, many years ago and soon discovered that it and its two siblings are quite impossible to find. This set at last brings together an excellent volume from the English Concert - all of Handel's orchestral works. Some of them, such as the Op.6, were very hastily written and cast aside; nevertheless they are beautiful. All of it is a refreshing break from the Italian style opera that Handel is known for. The more famous Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks are excellent versions that are worth having too. The performances here are beautifully made on period instruments and possess a combination of fluidity, soul and precision making them very memorable. They may date from the earliest days of all-digital recording but the sound is beyond reproach... The performances are consistent from disc to disc making this a true Volume and not a hurriedly-cut compilation from different eras and orchestras as typically found at lower prices. For anyone that is serious about Handel, this set is excellent value.It has all the perfect balance of English Concert performance and Deutsche Gramophon tonmeister touch. I wish all classical records could be this good."
Delightful music from the very great G. F. Handel played by
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 03/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a terrific set of disks. The recordings make great listening for those who just want the pleasure of some fine 18th century music, but they also are valuable for more sophisticated listeners who love Handel's music and want to enjoy his orchestral works.
Most modern concertgoers do not realize the complications that go into assembling a performance version of these works. They were not created whole and new with the intention of concert performance in our present method of experiencing instrumental concerts. The Water Music was for a special occasion in July 1717 for George I and his noble friends as the traveled by barge from Whitehall to Chelsea and back. The music was such a hit it was performed three times during the trip. However, it wasn't until years later that Handel began performing it for the public. The Royal Fireworks music was created for celebrating the signing of a Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 and was performed in 1749. The king wanted only martial instruments, but Handel insisted on strings as well. And it seems that the authorized publication may have had other alterations from the public performance for the celebration or the public rehearsals in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.
The six Concerti Grossi Opus 3 were published at a time of financial need that Handel experienced as his opera enterprises collapsed in 1734. They are pieces the composer had used as introductions or entr'actes for his operas, anthems, or oratorios. Some movements do appear to be freshly composed, others are clear borrowings from his own works, and others owe a clear debt to Corelli whose Opus 6 Concerti Grossi were so successful and immensely influential. These concerti do have oboes.
The twelve Opus 6 Concerti are for strings only and were originally used as music before and between the movements of his various oratorios. Scholars have studied the issue and believe they know which music is matched with which oratorio, but it hardly matters to the general listener. That Handel also used earlier themes is also interesting and a wonderful topic for debate (did the composer intend his public to recognize his reuse of popular themes or not), but, again, it is a topic of only passing interest to present audiences.
The "two-choir" concerti are quite interesting. They each have three groups, one of strings, and the two wind choirs. Music is re-used from his oratorios including "Messiah", "Esther", "Judas Macabeus", and others. Modern audiences will certainly recognize "Lift up ye gates", but the others will require especially aware lovers of Handel's music.
These performances are well done and are a constant delight. Some recordings might be more mannered or extreme. However, I delight in this kind of joyful, intelligent, and clean playing.