On this icy morning in Portland, Water Music and Royal Fireworks is the CD recommendation. This is the recording I have and I see there are only two left on Amazon. If these are gone when you try to place your order, select another combination of these two works and read the reviews. I generally begin with the least favorable as there may be something in the review that identifies why the recording should be avoided. Here is one of the positive reviews found on Amazon.
“When it comes to George Frederic Handel’s music, both orchestral and operatic, the words that best describe the tone and overall impression of the music are elegant, regal, grand and sublimely beautiful. Handel’s music was very popular, sometimes I feel much more so than the rigid music of Bach, which was far more complex and less “relaxing” than Handel’s. The leisurely, beautiful and grand style of his Water Music is in fact what he is most known for. This is music fit for European royalty as it was indeed first performed for the King of England’s boat ride on the Thames river. This is now reduced to elevator music or Muzak in five-star hotels and restaurants, or even cellular phone ringtones. The Water Music on this recording sounds absolutely brilliant, with no sterile moments or broad, boring tempi. The perfection of this particular recording is to be commended. Sir John Elliot Gardner and his English Baroque Soloists know the music like the palm of their hands. Maybe it’s because he feels the music is, in part, English in spirit, since Handel spent most of his career in London, though he was born in Germany. Gardener is actually slower in his tempi when compared to other works he conducts, particularly in operas. His specialty is Baroque and it shows in this recording.
The Suites are all played with finesse, with chamber-like elegance and with no riotous frenzy or fast pacing. It is a slow ride down the Thames. We are seduced by the sounds of flutes, violin strings, and trumpet. The famous Trumpet Suite has never sounded better than in this recording. The Minuets and Bourres are all masterfully performed and the English Baroque Soloists let us hear every detail of the music. There are still other fine versions out there, but few outshine this one. A second choice would be Sir John Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields. Or perhaps an Orchestra that specializes in period instruments and in the Baroque repertoire. If you love more of this type of music by Handel, I also recommend his 12 Concerto Grossi. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti certainly exceed the Water Music in beauty and in musical mastership but the Water Music continues to be a popular work featured in Classical Music radio, television, movies and even movie theater bathrooms!”