Jordi Savall's exemplary performance of Handel's Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks is among the finest available on disc: refined and precise, but very big, with blood-stirring grandeur. This is just the kind of extroverted, rousing presentation that best highlights the music's open-air ceremonial function. Savall's Le Concert des Nations is essentially a chamber orchestra with double or triple winds, but the sound he elicits from the group is majestic and surprisingly powerful. The playing is crisp and the rhythmic articulation bracing, but the sound is never brash. In fact, more often than not it is seductively sensual, a heady integration of precision and supple, shapely phrasing. Handel left no authoritative edition of the score of Water Music and it has traditionally been divided into three suites, but Savall reorders the material into two suites, a decision that makes more sense in terms of key relationships and that sounds entirely satisfying.
An outstanding veteran pianist from Spain, Tete Montoliu was born blind. He learned to read music in Braille when he was seven and developed impressive technique on piano. He recorded with Lionel Hampton in 1956, had his first session as a leader in 1958, and played with the touring Roland Kirk in 1963. Through the years, he also worked with such visiting Americans as Kenny Dorham, Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Lucky Thompson, and even Anthony Braxton. Tete Montoliu's visits to the U.S. were very infrequent, but his SteepleChase albums (starting in 1971) are generally available; he also cut one date for Contemporary (1979) and recorded for Enja and Soul Note.