Historical information about Händel’s Water Music Suites is limited, but certainly these works were intended for two, possibly three, parties given by King George I on the Thames River, London, between 1715 and 1736.
Händel and his orchestra played on a barge. Since then the some twenty-two separate original pieces have been organized into three Suites and nicknamed “Water Music”, each having a separate key and likely corresponding to these river parties.
This transcription of Water Music Suite II for saxophone quartet has two purposes: to make this music available to saxophonists for performance and education, and to provide in one volume the entire Suite II. The exception to the latter, because of the limits of endurance, is the exclusion of the short Adagio, a brief interlude between the fi rst two movements. Included though are the Allegro, Hornpipe, Minuet, Lentement, and Bourree.
These works were originally meant for an outdoor performance, and one of the original intentions of the saxophone was to play in French military bands, also an open-air purpose. The original scoring of brass, woodwind, and string instruments (but no continuo) transcribe well for saxophones. Matching the ranges of instruments of the original to the saxophone quartet was a primary objective. In addition, this arrangement strives to disperse melodic material to all four saxophones so as to make the arrangement pleasing to all the members of the quartet while providing variety to an audience. Any dynamic, articulation, and tempo markings are to be taken only as suggestions so as to allow interpretation by the performers.
The musical study and performance of all styles while using examples of composition and performance that represent excellence is necessary for saxophonists who wish to be well-rounded musicians. For the above reasons saxophonists are urged to listen to recordings of the original orchestration in order to learn and imitate proper interpretation of Baroque style. There are currently a number of excellent recordings of Handel’s Suites on period instruments, such as (but not limited to) those by conductors John Eliot Gardiner, Christopher Hogwood, and the ensemble Tafelmusik.