Handel : Water Musick / Telemann : Wassermusik

Zefiro, Alfredo Bernardini
Arcana A 432

This CD juxtaposes the Water Musick Suites in F, G and D by Handel with the ‘Hamburger Ebbe und Flut’ by Telemann. It is a live recording made in St John’s Smith Square as part of the 2003 Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, and, while there is a miraculous absence of audience noise and all the excitement of a live performance, the sound is a little immediate and brittle and surprisingly lacking in the St John’s warmth of acoustic. Calling Telemann’s Suite his Wassermusik draws a direct parallel between the two works, which is frankly disingenuous. While we know that Handel’s Water Musick’s only aquatic association is that is was performed mainly ‘on the river’, Telemann’s suite on the other hand is a thoroughly pelagic affair, with movements associated with Thetis, Neptune, Amphitrite, Tritonus, Aeolus and Zephir and ending with a depiction of the Hamburg ebb and flow, given a particularly tidal performance here, and the singing of lusty boatsmen. The Telemann, scored for strings and oboes doubling recorders, is also very much the poor relative orchestrally of Handel’s Suites with their additional brass, including famously the first orchestral use of horns. Zefiro under the direction of Alfredo Bernardini give all of the music crisp idiomatic performances, although I did find the immediacy of the recorded sound a little wearing – perhaps I would have been no more enamoured of the acoustic of the original performance of the Handel in the open air and ‘on the water’!

D. James Ross

One thought on “Handel : Water Musick / Telemann : Wassermusik

  1. Dave Bellinger AKA Melanti says:

    The comparison of these works, “pieces d’occasion” often clubbed together, appearing alongside each other in recordings and concerts, due primarily to a suggestive desire to make free associations floating around the heading of “Wasser-musik” is fraught with difficulties, and requires a proper exploration of the very different details & contexts of each, one a waterbourne royal procession on the Thames, the other an inspired instrumental “Prelude” to a mighty Serenade termed befittingly “Admiralitaetsmusik” (TVWV24:1) for the Centenary of Hamburg’s admiralty in 1723. Almost as tricky as comparing a Constable with a Monet! And the Monet is a Triptych! The context, genesis and attachments to specific events should be noted. When first published in 1955 the Telemann work (TWV55:C3) had no thematic movement titles as per the Darmstadt source, the Berlin one has “Wasser-Ouverture” and the Schwerin one brings us “Hamburger Ebb’ und Fluht”. Written some six Years later than the Handel pieces, it was the highly impressionistic instrumental part, “Prelude” to a large-scale Serenade (30 Numbers!) which uses plenty of Brass too! The obvious stylistic elements come from a masterful fusion of Lully~Rebel effects with perfectly “galant” applications here and there! It does appear Handel that had written more music for watery excursions, prior and after the famous 1717 outing; I do recall the Oxford setting too with just oboes. Should also be noted the Telemann works were held initially on a festively bedecked stage in a large hall in the “Niederbaumhaus” and then given in many many public concerts up until 1736! Just as with the “Alster-echo” Suite (TWV55:F11) the wonderfully descriptive, mythical, elemental “Wassermusik” is a inspired “prelude” to a Serenade. So, although bound under a rather spurious pigeonholed heading, these works differ in so many ways! Finally, the last movement, (Canarie) doesn’t exclude the sailors being a bit”Lusty/drunk/worse for the grog” but are here rendered as comical/frolicsome sailors! When AKAMUS performed this live, the did give this a few “drunken” slips & slurs.

    (N>B> Just purchased the P.Dombrecht & IL Fondamento pairing of the very same works on Passacaille label>>Very good indeed! Always relished their Horn players & obvous obosist)

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