Handel’s “What Passion Cannot Music Raise and Quell!”: Sandrine Piau

Saint Cecilia, one of the most famous martyrs of the early church, is the patron saint of music and musicians. Beginning in 1683, musicians in London celebrated Saint Cecilia’s Feast Day, which is November 22 on the Roman Catholic calendar. It was for this occasion that George Frederich Handel composed his cantata, Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day  in 1739. The work, which was premiered at London’s Theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, is a setting of a …

Read more

Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 11 in A Major: Bremer Barockorchester

George Frideric Handel was one of music history’s most successful entrepreneurs. Handel’s 40-plus Italian operas brought the finest singers of the day to the London stage and earned the composer celebrity status. Yet, in 1738 when opera seria began to fall out of favor with English audiences, Handel transitioned seamlessly to a popular new genre, the dramatic oratorio. As an added attraction, he composed the twelve Concerti Grossi, Op. 6 to be performed between …

Read more

Brahms’ Handel Variations, Op. 24: A Monument Built on Baroque Foundations

George Frideric Handel’s Suite in B-flat Major, HWV 434, published in 1733 as part of a collection of keyboard works entitled Suites de Pièces, concludes with an Aria con variazioni in which five ebullient variations spin out of a sunny galant theme: This endearing music provided the seed for Johannes Brahms’ monumental Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, composed nearly 130 years later in 1861. Here, the original theme is followed by 25 adventurous …

Read more

Handel’s “Haec est Regina Virginum,” Anne Sofie von Otter

In the years before his arrival in London, the young George Frideric Handel was based in Italy. Settling in Rome, Handel, a native of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, composed cantatas and oratorios for the city’s most wealthy and powerful Cardinals. Additionally, commissions poured in from Florence, Venice, and Naples. It was during this time that Handel composed Haec est Regina virginum, HWV 235 (“Behold the Queen of Virgins”). The antiphon may have been written …

Read more

Handel’s Fugue in A Minor, HWV 609: Haunting Chromaticism

For a brief moment, Handel’s Fugue in A Minor, HWV 609 could almost be mistaken for a twentieth century tone row. The first haunting pitches of the fugue’s subject are disorienting because they leap wildly beyond an octave. The chromaticism which underlies the subject clouds the tonal center. In the second half of the subject, a descending chromatic line suggests a sense of deep mystery and melancholy. The fugue unfolds as an …

Read more

Handel’s Suite No. 5 in E Major: “The Harmonious Blacksmith”

George Frideric Handel composed the Eight Great Suites for harpsichord around 1718 when he was employed as house composer at Cannons in Middlesex, England. By 1720, he became aware of error-ridden pirated copies of the music circulating throughout continental Europe. When the set was published, Handel included the following  explanation in the preface of the London edition: I have been obliged to publish some of the following Lessons, because surrepticious and incorrect Copies of …

Read more

Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6: No. 2 in F Major: An Intimate Conversation

An economic calculation led Handel to compose his twelve Concerti Grossi (Op. 6) in the autumn of 1739. Italian opera was falling out of favor with the English public. The 1737 season had been disastrous for the opera company Handel directed, taking a toll on the composer’s finances and health. In an enterprising turn, Handel offered a new genre that would gain quick popularity—the English oratorio. In order to attract audiences and gain …

Read more

Send this to a friend