You might think that Handel's Water Music, HWV 348-350, arguably the most familiar piece of Baroque music (the Four Seasons of Vivaldi can give it a run for its money, but its popularity is more recent), has received every possible interpretation. And you would be wrong, as the musicians of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin have shown in this Harmonia Mundi release, precisely recorded in Berlin's Teldex studio. You get a steady parade of innovations here, marked overall by, but not in the least restricted to, blisteringly fast tempos that turn the horn-dominated movements into tests of virtuosity. Unexpected dynamic contrasts and the unusual rhythmic treatment of the "Overture" to the Suite No. 1 (sample track one) are other novelties, but this veteran group is not out for shock value. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin operate without a conductor, and their coordination in these crisp prestos is worth the price of admission in itself. Their ability to act as one in really unusual shapings of each individual movement is remarkable, and the treacherous horn parts are near perfection in the hands of Erwin Wieringa and Miroslav Rovenský.
"Bach's unfinished Art of Fugue, published for still-debated reasons in open score, has been performed and recorded in dozens of different instrumental versions. But this one, by the veteran Akademie für alte Musik, founded in the former East Berlin, is unique; few others have differentiated the fugues by instrumental forces deployed, and perhaps in none has the overall effect been quite so kaleidoscopic as this one. (…) The sound engineering, a product of Berlin's Teldex Studio, is a major strong point." ~allmusic
…Harmonia Mundi's impeccable engineering provides the finishing touch on a disc that must count as one of the most amazing and enjoyable baroque recitals of this or any other year.
…The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin scores a triumph with these fresh, powerful, and ever-stylish performances that even long-time connoisseurs shouldn’t be without. And if you’re new to C.P.E., you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
…how many Vivaldi collections you have either; passing this one by would be missing one of the finest of a whole slew that has appeared the last few years. You wouldn’t want to do that, would you?