Reading the liner notes, I am reminded that the occasion for which the water music originally was composed was royal river outing that started in the evening and lasted until 4:00 AM (Take THAT you modern clubhoppers!). The music was played three times through the course of this trip. I doubt there were many teetotallers. Soo...royal oarsmen, wine goblets overflowing with the best claret, tipsy nobleman and...hey! don't hit that river barge! Watch where you're goin' mate!
As such, I'd expect a little roughness in performances (especially for the 3:30 AM gig). Ill-tuned horns and all, I think Hogwood delivers about as faithful a rendition as is currently available. There are certainly more "refined" versions of the water music. I think these better resemble the follow-on peformances for the genteel, perfumed ladies seeking money for the foundling hospital. That's the beauty of Orpheus and Pinnock versions.
Hogwood gets 4 stars for getting close to the river ride. I will admit that my view has been biased by the fabulous 1976 rendition by Jean-Claude Malgoire which hasn't been bettered in this respect. No English band can shake a stick next to drunken French horn players. But Hogwood is a good near-term substitute until Sony wakes up and dips further into their vaults.
Additionally, the Fireworks music is fabulous; the due cori very nice, with similar touches of earthiness. All in all a good outing, and for decent prices.