We’re so excited to hear Nicholas Kraemer lead the complete Water Music on February 22 and 24. Here’s what the Chicago Tribune’s John von Rhein had to say about Nicholas Kraemer and the Music of the Baroque orchestra when we last performed all three suites.

MOB makes ‘Water Music’ bubbly

Apart from recordings, the so-called Water Music that George Frideric Handel composed for performance on a royal barge carrying King George I and guests up the Thames in 1717 is seldom heard complete. And even when all three suites turn up in concert, they seldom give off the liveliness of spirit and sheer variety of color Nicholas Kraemer brought with the Music of the Baroque orchestra Sunday at First United Methodist Church, Evanston.

The work of a German trained in Italy and living in England, the suites are primarily French in musical style, with their succession of dances in gallant style. The F Major and D Major suites, complete with grand flourishes for paired horns, marked the first use of those French instruments in an English orchestra. The grandeur of those pieces finds a perfect foil in the gentle intimacy of the G Major suite.

Kraemer is settling in nicely as MOB’s principal guest conductor. In this, the first of two programs he will direct with them this season, he was careful to bring out the numerous subtleties of instrumentation, accent and phrasing in Handel’s greatest piece of open-air music. He encouraged the horn players to produce an earthy, outdoorsy rasp in the ceremonial sections. He saw to it that his violins dug into the syncopated rhythms that were Handel’s homage to the country dances of his adopted England.

Although modern instruments were used, the players were encouraged to approximate a crisp, lean “period” sound, with MOB veterans Robert Morgan, oboe, and Lyon Leifer, transverse flute and recorder, aerating the basic string group. Handel added a brace of trumpets to his D Major suite, giving the music a martial character that brass virtuosos Charles Geyer and Barbara Butler underscored brilliantly.

Kraemer had the inspired notion of setting off each suite by Handel with J.S. Bach arias sung by the wonderful Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor, making his first though surely not his last solo appearance with the ensemble. Taylor has one of the most beautiful and musical male alto voices around, sweet yet penetrating, impeccably tuned and phrased. He was a delight to hear in arias from the Handel operas “Rodelinda” and “Giulio Cesare,” both delivered with a purity of utterance and expressive depth that also distinguished his readings of two arias from Bach’s solo Cantata No. 170. Kraemer’s accompaniments were suitably stylish.