Handel’s Sonata in D Major, HWV 371: Music Ripe for Reuse

After 300 years, the music of Handel continues to draw us in with richly expressive melodies and a vivid sense of drama.

Both are apparent in the Sonata in D Major, HWV 371 for violin and basso continuo. In the opening of the first movement (Affettuoso), the violin line appears to outline an ascending D major triad, only to arrive on an E, one pitch too far. The next phrase extends even further, soaring up to a B before falling back in steps. Immediately, the contour of the theme suggests something majestic and expansive. The bold downbeat arrival on the “wrong” note of E opens up magical new vistas. A back-and-forth musical conversation emerges between the violin and the bass line of the viola de gamba. Regal dotted rhythms fall over a continuous rhythmic heartbeat, and phrases are seemingly endless.

The second movement (Allegro) erupts with a joyful imitative fugal dialogue between the three instruments (violin, viola de gamba and harpsichord), while the third movement (Larghetto) moves to a lamenting and longing B minor. Filled with thrilling running lines, the final movement is a dignified dance in triple meter.

While the authenticity is in question regarding some of Handel’s violin sonatas, this one exists in the composer’s manuscript. It was played in an updated bel canto style by “golden age” violinists such as Nathan Milstein, Jascha Heifetz, Joseph Szigeti, and Isaac Stern. In this 2001 recording, featuring the Baroque violinist John Holloway with Jaap ter Linden (cello) and Lars Ulrik Mortensen (harpsichord), it is restored to its original form, with an array of expressive ornamentation.

Reused Melodies

Handel was a great recycler of melodies. The second movement’s theme blossomed into a choral double fugue in the opening of the second act of the 1749 oratorio, Solomon. This recording of “From the censer” features the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, led by John Eliot Gardiner:

The final movement was transformed into an orchestral sinfonia which opens the third act of the 1751 oratorio, Jephtha. Here, Harry Christophers leads The Sixteen:


  • Handel: Sonata in D Major, HWV 371, John Holloway, Jaap ter Linden, Lars Ulrik Mortensen Amazon
  • Handel: Solomon, HWV 67, John Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists Amazon
  • Handel: Jephtha, Op. 70, Harry Christophers, The Sixteen thesixteenshop

Featured Image: portrait of George Frideric Handel (c. 1730), Philip Mercier

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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