My first encounter with the Royal Fireworks Music performed by a band of modern winds was not this one (I found the Pye LP, I think it was, or maybe the Bach Guild re-release, later on) but the Telarc recording by the Cleveland Symphonic Winds (the winds of the Cleveland Orchestra, so definitely no slouches) conducted by Frederick Fennell, who, more than anyone, has made the band scene in the United States what it is today.
And love that recording I do, especially the Goldman arrangement of the Bach Fantasia in G and the Holst Suite in E-flat (which, if anyone were to be said to own it, Fennell does).
But this performance of the Royal Fireworks Music is just that much more thrilling, even considering the brilliant sonics Telarc provided for Fennell and company. Knowing the personalities (Barry Tuckwell, Alan Civil, and Philip Jones in the same recording!) behind it is partly responsible for what makes it so special, but the circumstances, too, are part of the story.
Mackerras recreated something that had not been heard for nearly two hundred years, and in doing so, laid the groundwork for others to follow. The Fennell recording, which might be just the second such performance before the historically-informed performance (HIP) crowd took up the cause, notes that the Mackerras arrangement is used. In 1989, the King's Consort recorded the Royal Fireworks Music on period instruments with 24 oboes, 11 bassoons and 1 contrabassoon, 9 trumpets, 9 natural horns, 3 timpani, 4 side drums, and 1 double drum, returning full circle to that first performance on 21 April 1749.
It is so wonderful to have these performance back in the catalog once again. Kudos to Testament for the remastering work and to EMI for licensing them to Testament. It's a real shame the other major labels can't do the same with a similarly motivated reissuer (e.g. I would love to have the E. Power Biggs Music for Organ, Brass and Percussion on CD or SACD, but what's the likelihood of Sony doing anything that intelligent).