The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (affectionately portmanteaued to ‘Akamus’) gives a blistering re-enactement here of George I’s 1717 noisy barge journey down the Thames. Dance tunes in the French outdoor tradition and a processional, military colour dominate. The three suites each use different instrumentation, a fact that points to their separate origins, and poaching from earlier output.
Grammy-winning Baroque specialists Akamus began in East Berlin in 1982. For this recording they are 27 players (to Handel’s 50; probably a good thing) and are operating sans conductor, under concertmaster Georg Kallweit. They bring a perfect blend of ensemble unity and soloistic flair. Oboist Xenia Löffler embellishes the Adagio e Staccato (Suite 1) with supreme artistry. Supersonic tempi transform the horn-centric movements into Olympic feats. Water Music is the first time a pair of horns was heard in an English orchestra; imagine the virtuosic trills of the Allegro (Suite 1) blasting peasant ears near and far.
Typical for excellent period ensembles, the rhythmic vigour required of baroque music is really apparent here. In the Bourrée (Suite 3), timpanist Friedhelm May is a standout soloist. The central suite is more intimate than the outer two. Flautist Christoph Huntgeburth and Lutenist Björn Colell bring a celestial warmth to the Minuet (Suite 2): the jewel of the disc!