Notes & Reviews:
What the Italian wind-based orchestra Zefiro, led by oboist Alfredo Bernardini, achieve here is remarkable, giving these ceremonial masterpieces an expressive lilt and rounded warmth - no relentless rhythms, but perky dances, gracious phrasing and, in the famous fireworks music, an unexpected depth of emotion.
Gramophone Classical Music Guide
The Italian ensemble Zefiro, directed by oboist Alfredo Bernardini, specialise in 18th-century music that gives prominence towards wind instruments. This lends itself to Handel's Musicfor the Royal Fireworks, written for the public celebrations of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in London's Green Park (1749). Zefiro play the grand Ouverture with the perfect synthesis of splendour and dance-like charisma (too many versions possess too little of the latter). 'La réjouissance' trips along lightly without a hint of clumsiness, but still has ample juicy magnificence.
There are several other good recordings available, but this zesty and fluid performance is a welcome change from stodgy readings in which everything is hammered home mercilessly. Zefiro bring a marvellous sense of light and shade to this music. Maybe Bernardini's sparkling and communicative approach would have been too subtle for the great British outdoors in 1749, but it is curious that this beautifully engineered recording was made outside in the cloisters of a former Jesuit college in Sicily.
Zefiro also perform all three of the Concerti perdue cori (1747-48) that Handel arranged for orchestra and two 'choirs' of woodwind and brass. These were intended as entr'actes in oratorio concerts, and it is fun to play 'name that tune'. These shapely performances are phrased and paced to perfection, and exploit an enjoyable range of instrumental colours (whether oboe trios or bucolic horns, almost everything here feels right). This is one of the most enjoyable discs of Handel's orchestral music in a long time.