Guilty Pleasure: Royal Fireworks Music

Royal Fireworks


Music has lots of gaudy spectacles, and they started long before Lady Gaga or Jay-Z.  There are dozens of works of classical music that are bombastic, overwrought, kitschy, melodramatic, or all of the above.  The 1812 Overture might be the most famous example (although when compared to Wellington’s Victory six cannon shots isn’t THAT many), but it is by no means the pinnacle of music’s good bad taste.

With apologies to Stockhausen’s Licht, the honor goes to Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music, in its original instrumentation.  For the uninitiated, the original scoring is: 26 oboes, 14 bassoons, 4 contrabassoons, 2 serpents, 9 trumpets, 9 horns, 3 sets of kettledrums, and 6 side drums.  Just read that again and contemplate its sheer awesomeness.

For years, I only knew of the relatively famous Mackerras recording.  It was supposedly recorded in the wee hours of the night, as that was the only time they could get 26 (26!) oboes and the rest of the gang in one place.  Turns out there’s more.  Several more.

I’ve managed to track down five different recordings, all on wondrous LP.  The list:

Charles Mackerras/A shitload of people from London
Jean-Claude Malgoire/La Grande Ecurie & La Chambre du Roy
Jean-Francois Paillard/Paillard Chamber Orchestra
Richard Schulze/Telemann Society Orchestra and Band
Johannes Somary/Augmented (I’ll say) Wind Ensemble of the English Chamber Orchestra

I really only posted this because I want some feedback.  Does anyone know of any more?  If so, leave a comment, because I’ve come this far……..

Do yourself a favor and track down a copy of one of these recordings.  And fucking crank it.  It’s a hell of a show. Burning down your house with fireworks is of course optional, but recommended.


7 thoughts on “Guilty Pleasure: Royal Fireworks Music

  1. I’ve always loved Handel’s ‘Royal Fireworks Music’. My favorite is an old 80’s recording with Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert.

    By the way, you might be interested to know that arch modernist Pierre Boulez (of all people!) has not only conducted Handel’s ‘Royal Fireworks’ early in his career but has even recorded it… And not just once but TWICE !

  2. Wow! That’s really awesome.. I love Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music.

  3. Pingback: Something to listen to: Royal Fireworks Music « Everything But The Music

  4. Sure brings back the memories – I heard the Mackerras recording before and remember it fondly for its wonderful noise. Have you heard the Goossens/Salzedo/Beecham orchestration of Messiah? It’s got harps, triangles, cymbals – basically the works of a full modern orchestra. Not authentic, but what a sound!

  5. Pingback: Happy New Year! With special appearance by an old favorite! | Everything But The Music

  6. The excellent King’s Consort/Robert King recording on Hyperion also utilizes the original wind setting, with period instrumets to boot.

  7. To my knowledge, that’s the only batshit-crazy version of Royal Fireworks that I don’t have. It’s on the list now. Thanks for the heads up!

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