Although this disc is listed with the DVDs here at Amazon it isn't a standard visual DVD. It is primarily a DVD-Audio disc with the great sound associated with that format. If your disc player isn't capable of playing DVD-Audio, it will try playing it in DTS Digital Surround, the format next lower down in the burgeoning Great Chain of Being of audio technology. Should your player be incapable of this format as well, it will play it in "lowly" 2.0 stereo. I can remember when stereo was the apex of recorded sound so I suppose this is progress of a sort. Remember those prognostications of the "future"? We were all supposed to have personal helicopters and robots by now. Instead we have 6 or 7 speakers. Ah, consumerism!
My player is one of those universal all-format players. It played the DVD Audio layer of the disc and wouldn't play the other 2 so I could not compare them, which I was really hankering to do. Thus, my comments about this disc are most applicable to the DVD-Audio format. Although the quality of performances are theoretically indifferent to the audio format by which they are reproduced, issues pertaining to instrumental balance, intonation and timbre are invariably affected by their playback format.
The DVD-A (or Advanced-Resolution Surround Sound to give its grander name) sounds spectacular with space surrounding each instrument and a real feeling of "live" music. This is a result of the 96khz. sampling rate in surround mode. In stereo mode there is a theoretical 192 khz. sampling rate; well beyond what the human ear can distinguish and it requires a newer A/V receiver capable of decoding such a high sampling rate. Both modes capture 24 bits of information each microsecond. Of course, to insure compatibility with different home theatre systems, a separate DTS track (not a lossless format) enables you to get multi-channel sound if you don't have DVD-Audio capability. This is the same DTS in which film soundtracks are recorded. I think it is the best sounding format for that purpose, but some information is lost in the compression process. Discs like this Handel recording, offering so many format choices, are a good value but I am unable to offer a comparison in sound quality between them.
The performance of Handel's Water Music, composed for royal water parties on the Thames in August 1715 and July 1717 (an unqualified success which the King "caused it to be plaid three times in going and returning"), is superb. There are 3 suites, in F Major, D Major and G Major respectively and the period instrument forces of the Aradia Ensemble under Kevin Mallon are nearly flawless in terms of expressiveness, tempi, intonation and interpretation. These are areas period instruments groups had difficulty in at the beginning of the authentic performance movement. It is an indication of how far things have evolved that comparisons to modern orchestras are now often to the modern's disadvantage in these performance areas. The Aradia Ensemble's performance style is reminiscent of Jeanne Lamon's Tafelmusik. Solid performances, fleet and expressive. The Music for the Royal Fireworks, composed to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1749 with a fireworks display in Green Park London, was reported to have been "ill-conducted" and a pyrotechnic and public relations disaster. One of the pavillions caught fire and burned to the ground. The king did not ask the Fireworks Music to be replayed. The Aradia Ensemble have better luck; though the performance is blistering, nothing combusts. Kevin Mallon appears to be an excellent conductor. As the authentic performance movement's first wave of conductors age, talented younger conductors are arriving on the scene to further the precepts of their maturing antecedents.
This is an excellently performed, superb sounding DVD-Audio disc from Naxos: still a bargain for the price and definitely worth getting. My strong recommendation.