Handel (Rolland)/The Orchestral Works
The orchestral music of Handel comprises twelve Concerti Grossi (1740), the six Oboe Concertos (1734), the Symphonies from his operas, oratorios, and his open-air music—Water-Music (1715 or 1717), Firework Music (1749),—and Concerti for two .Although Handel was in art a visualist, and though his music had a highly descriptive and evocatory power, he only made a very restrained use of instrumental tone-colour. However, he showed on occasion a refined intelligence in its use. The two oratorios written at Rome when he found himself in the society of the Cardinal Ottoboni, and his great virtuoso works, The Triumph of Time and The Resurrection of 1708, have a fine and well-varied orchestration. In London he was one of the first to introduce the use of the horn into the orchestra of the opera. "He was the first," says Volbach, "to assert the expressive personality of the violoncello." From the viola he knew how to secure many curious effects of indefinite and disquieting half-tones, he gave to the bassoons a lugubrious and fantastic character, he experimented with new instruments, small and great, he used the drum (tambour) solo in a dramatic fashion for Jupiter's oath in Semele. For special situations, by instrumental tone-colours, he secures effects not only of dramatic expression, but also of exotism and local colour. It is so in the two scenes from the two Cleopatras, Giulio Cesare (1724) and Alexander Balus (1748).
But great painter as Handel was he did not work so much through the brilliancy, variety, and novelty of his tone-colours as by the beauty of his designs, and his effects of light and shade. With a voluntarily restrained palette, and by satisfying himself with the sober colours of the strings, he yet was able to produce surprising and thrilling effects. Volbach has shown that he had less recourse to the contrast and mixing of instruments than to the division of the same family of instruments into different groups. In the introductory piece movement to his second Esther (1732) the violins are divided into five groups; in The Resurrection (1708), into four divisions; the violas are sometimes divided into two, the second being reinforced by the third violin, or by the violoncellos. On the other hand, Handel, when he considered it advisable, reduced his instrumental forces by suppressing the viola and the second violin, whose places were taken by the clavecin. All his orchestral art is in the true instinct of balance and economy, which, with the most restricted means in managing a few colours, yet knows how to obtain as powerful impressions as our musicians of to-day, with their crowded palette. Nothing, then, is more important, if we wish to render this music truly, than the avoidance of upsetting the equilibrium of the various sections of the orchestra under the pretext of enriching it and bringing it up to date. The worse fault is to deprive it, by a useless surplus of tone-colours, of that suppleness and subtlety of nuance which is its principal charm.
One is prone to accept too readily the idea, that expressive nuance is a privilege of the modern musical art, and that Handel's orchestra knew only the great theatrical contrasts between force and sweetness, or loudness and softness. It is nothing of the kind. The range of Handel's nuances is extremely varied. One finds with him the pianissimo, the piano, the mezzo piano, the mezzo forte, un poco più F, un poco F, forte, fortissimo. We never find the orchestral crescendo and decrescendo, which hardly appears marked expressly until the time of Jommelli, and the school of Mannheim; but there is no doubt that it was practised long before it was marked in the music. The President of Brosses wrote in 1739 from Rome: "The voices, like the violins, used with light and shade, with unconscious swelling of sound, which augments the force from note to note, even to a very high degree, since its use as a nuance is extremely sweet and touching." And endless examples occur in Handel of long crescendi and diminuendi without its expression being marked in the scores. Another kind of crescendo and diminuendo on the same note was very common in the time of Handel, and his friend, Geminiani, helped to set the fashion. Volbach, and with him Hugo Riemann, has shown that Geminiani used in the later editions of his first Violin Sonatas in 1739, and in his Violin School in 1751, the two following signs:
Swelling the sound [\]
Diminishing (falling) the sound [/]
As Geminiani explains it, "The sound ought to commence softly, and should swell out in a gradual fashion to about half its value, then it should diminish to the end. The movement of the bow should continue without interruption."
It happens thus, that by a refinement of expression, which became a mannerism of the Mannheim school, but which also became a source of powerful contrast with the Beethovenians, the swelling stopped short of its aim, and was followed instead by a sudden piano, as in the following example from the Trio Sonatas of Geminiani.
It is more than probable that the virtuoso players of Handel's orchestra also used this means of expression, though we need not assume that Handel used them as abundantly as Geminiani or as the Mannheim players, whose taste had become doubtless a little affected and exaggerated. But what is certain is that with him, as with Geminiani, and indeed with all the great artists of his time, especially with the Italians and their followers, music was a real discourse, and ought to be rendered with inflections as free and as varied as natural speech.
How was it possible to realise all the suppleness and subtleties of elocution on the orchestra? To understand this it is necessary to examine the disposition and placing of the orchestra of that time. It was not, as with us, centralised under the control of a single conductor. Thus, as Seiffert tells us, in Handel's time it was the principle of decentralisation which ruled. The choruses had their leaders, who listened to the organ, from which they took their cue, and so sustained the voices. The orchestra was divided into three sections, after the Italian method. Firstly, the Concertino, comprising a first and a second violin, and a solo violoncello; secondly, the Concerto Grosso, comprising the instrumental choir; thirdly, the Ripienists strengthening the Grosso.
A picture in the British Museum, representing Handel in the midst of his musicians, depicts the composer seated at the clavier (a cembalo with two keyboards, of which the lid is raised). He is surrounded by the violoncellist (placed at his right-hand side), two violins and two flutes, which are placed just before him, under his eye. The solo singers are also near him, on his left, quite close to the clavecin. The rest of the instrumentalists are behind him, out of his sight. Thus his directions and his glances would control the Concertino, who would transmit in their turn the chief conductor's wishes to the Concerto Grosso, and they in their turn to the Ripienists. In place of the quasi-military discipline of modern orchestras, controlled under the baton of a chief conductor, the different bodies of the Handelian orchestra governed one another with elasticity, and it was the incisive rhythm of the little Cembalo which put the whole mass into motion. Such a method avoided the mechanical stiffness of our performances. The danger was rather a certain wobbling without the powerful and infectious will-power of a chief such as Handel, and without the close sympathy of thought which was established between him and his capable subconductors of the Concertino and of the Grosso.
It is this elasticity which should be aimed at in the instrumental works of Handel when they are executed nowadays.
We will first take his Concerti Grossi. None of his works are more celebrated and less understood. Handel attached to them a particular value, for he published them himself by subscription, a means which was usual in his day, but which he himself never adopted except under exceptional circumstances.
One knows that the kind of Concerti Grossi, which consists chiefly in a dialogue between a group of solo instrumentalists (the Concertino) and the full body of instruments (Concerto Grosso), to which is added the cembalo, was, if not invented, at least carried to its perfection and rendered classical by Corelli. The works of Corelli, aided by the efforts of his followers, had become widely known in Europe. Geminiani introduced them into England, and without doubt Handel did not hesitate to profit by the example of Geminiani, who was his friend; but it is much more natural to think that he learnt the Concerto Grosso, at its source at Rome, from Corelli himself during his sojourn there in 1708. Several of his Concertos in his Opus 3 date from 1710, 1716, 1722. The same feature shows itself right up to the time of his apprenticeship at Hamburg: in any case he might have already known the Corellian style, thanks to the propaganda of George Moffat, who spread this style very early in Germany. After Corelli, Locatelli, and especially Vivaldi, have singularly transformed the Concerto Grosso by giving it the free character of programme music and by turning it resolutely towards the form of the Sonata in three parts. But when the works of Vivaldi were played in London in 1723, and the works which aroused such a general enthusiasm became thoroughly known to Handel, it was always to Corelli that he gave the preference, and he was very conservative in certain ways even about him. The form of his Concerto, of which the principal movements varied from four to six, oscillated between the Suite and the Sonata, and even glanced towards the symphonic overture. It is this for which the theorists blame him, and it is this for which I praise him. For he does not seek to impose a uniform cast on his thoughts, but leaves it open to himself to fashion the form as he requires, and the framework varies accordingly, following his inclinations from day to day. The spontaneity of his thought, which has already been shown by the extreme rapidity with which the Concerti were composed—each in a single day at a single sitting, and many each week—constitutes the great charm of these works. They are, in the words of Kretzschmar, grand impression pictures, translated into a form, at the same time precise and supple, in which the least change of emotion can make itself easily felt. Truly they are not all of equal value. Their conception itself, which depended in a way on mere momentary inspiration, is the explanation of this extreme inequality. One ought to acknowledge here that the Seventh Concerto, for example (the one in B flat major), and the last three have but a moderate interest. They are amongst those least played; but to be quite just we must pay homage to these masterpieces, and especially to the Second Concerto in F major, which is like a Beethovenian concerto: for we find there some of the spirit of the Bonn master. For Kretzschmar the ensemble calls to mind a beautiful autumn day—the morning, where the rising sun pierces its way through the clouds—the afternoon, the joyful walk, the rest in the forest, and finally the happy and belated return. It is difficult in fact not to have natural scenes brought before one's eyes in hearing these works. The first Andante Larghetto, which predicts, at times, the Pastoral Symphony of Beethoven, is a reverie on a beautiful summer's day. The spirit lulls itself with nature's murmur, becomes intoxicated with it, and goes to rest. The tonality rocks between F major to B flat major and G minor. To render this piece well it is necessary to give the time plenty of play, often retarding it, and following the composer's reverie in a spirit of soft leisurely abandon.
The third movement, a Largo in B flat major, is one of the most intimate of Handel's instrumental pages. After seven bars of Largo, in which the Concertino alternates dreamily with the Tutti,two bars adagio, languorously drawn out, cause the reverie to glide into a sort of ecstasy,
then a larghetto andante e piano breathes out a tender and melancholy song.The Largo is resumed. There is in this little poem a melancholy which seems to revive Handel's personal remembrances.—The allegro ma non troppo with which it finishes is, on the contrary, of a jovial feeling, entirely Beethovenish; it sings joyfully as it bounds along in well-marked three-four time, with a pizzicato-like rhythm.
In the middle of this march a phrase occurs on the two violins of the Concertino which is like a hymn of reverent and tender gratitude.
The Fourth Concerto in A minor is not less intimate with its Larghetto affettuoso, which ought to be played with the rubato, rallentando and short pauses—its allegro fugue, which spreads out and overshadows all by its powerful tread—and after a Largo of antique graveness the allegro three-four which finishes is the veritable last movement of the Beethoven sonata, romantic, capricious, passionate, and more and more unrestrained as it approaches the end, accelerando nearly prestissimo,—inebriated.
But one ought to know especially the Sixth Concerto in G minor, the most celebrated of all on account of its magnificent Musette. It opens with a beautiful Larghetto, full of that melancholy which is one of the dominant sentiments with Handel, and one of the least observed by most people: melancholy that is, in the sense of the Malinconia of Dürer, or of Beethoven—less agitated, but still profound. We have already encountered it in the Second, in the Third, and in the Fourth Concerto. Here it is found in an elegiac monologue, punctuated by pedal points;then in the dialogues of the Concertino and of the Tutti responding, like the groups of the ancient classical chorus. The allegro ma non troppo fugue which follows it, on a twisting chromatic theme, is of the same sombre colour. But it is the lusty march of the disciplined fugue which dispels the fantastic shadows. Then comes the Larghetto, three-four time in E flat major, which Handel calls a Musette, and which is one of the most delightful dreams of pastoral happiness. A whole day of poetic and capricious events gradually unrolls itself over the beautiful echoing refrain,
In the midst of this picture an episode, rustic and frolicsome, is introduced.Then the broad subject of the Introduction recurs with its refrain of quiet joy, nature's own smile.
Such works are truly pictures in music. To understand them it does not suffice to have quick ears; it is necessary to have the eyes to see, and the heart to feel.
The Symphonies of the operas and oratorios of Handel are extremely varied. Still, the Lully form predominates. This form consists, as is well known, of a first slow movement, grave, pompous, and majestic, followed by a second (quick) movement, full of life, and usually in fugal style, with a return to the slow movement for conclusion. It appears in the Almira of 1705, and Handel uses it with variations in all the most celebrated works of his maturity, such as in the Messiah, and Judas Maccabæus, and even has recourse to it again in his last work of all, The Triumph of Time (1757), but he does not confine himself entirely to this form alone. The Symphonia of Roderigo (1707) adds to the Lully-like overture a Balletto in the Italian style, a veritable Suite of Dances: Jig, Sarabande, Matelot, Minuet, Bourrée, Minuet, Grand Passacaille. The Overture to The Triumph of Time of 1708 is a brilliant Concerto, where the Concertino and the Grosso converse in a most entertaining and graceful fashion. The Overture to Il Pastor Fido, 1712, is a Suite in eight movements. That of Teseo, 1713, contains two Largos, each followed by a playful movement of imitation. That of the Passion after Brockes, 1716, consists of a single fugued allegro, which is joined to the first chorus by the link of a declamatory solo on the oboe. The Overture to Acis and Galatea, 1720, is also a single movement. The Overture to Giulio Cesare, 1724, is joined on to the first chorus, which is in the form of the third movement, the Minuet. The Overture to Atalanta, 1736, has a charming sprightliness, similar to an instrumental suite for a fête, like the Firework Music, of which we shall speak later. The Overture to Saul, 1738, is a veritable Concerto for organ and orchestra, and the sonata form is adopted in the first movement.—We see then a very marked effort on the part of Handel, particularly in his youth, to vary the form of his Overture from one work to another.Even when he uses the Lully type of Overture (and he seems to turn towards it more and more in his maturity) he transforms it by the spirit which animates it. He never allows its character to be purely decorative. He introduces therein always expressive and dramatic ideas. If one cannot exactly call the splendid Overture to Agrippina, 1709, a Concert Overture of programme music, one cannot deny its dramatic power. The second movement bubbles with life. It is no longer an erudite divertissement, a movement foreign to the action, but it has a tragic character, and the response of the fugue is apparent in the severe and slightly restless subject of the first piece. For conclusion the slow movement is recalled by a solo on the oboe, which announces it out in the pathetic manner made so well known in certain recitatives of J. S. Bach.
Many people have seen in the three movements of the Overture to Esther, 1720, a complete programme, which Chrysander gives thus in detail: firstly, the wickedness of Haman; secondly, the complaints of Israel; thirdly, the deliverance. I will content myself by saying that the ensemble of this symphony is thoroughly in the colour and spirit of the tragedy itself—but it is not possible to doubt that with the Overture of Deborah and with that of Belshazzar that Handel wished to work to a complete programme; for of the four movements of the Deborah Overture, the second is repeated later on as the Chorus of the Israelites, and the fourth as the Chorus of Baal's priests. Thus in his very first pages he places in miniature in the Overture the duality of the nations, whose antagonism forms the subject of the drama. It seems also true that the Overture to Belshazzar aims at painting the orgy of the feast of Sesach, and the apparition of the Divine Hand which wrote the mystic words of fire on the wall. In every case dramatic intentions are very evident; by the three repeats; the interrupted flow of the orchestra is intersected by three short chords, piano; and, then after the sudden silence, three bars of solemn and soft music are heard like a religious song.
overture with two marches, trumpet calls, and a Prayer of distress. There is also the outline of a programme in the Overture to Judas Maccabœus, of which the first movement is related to the Funeral Scene which opens the first act, and of which the second movement (Fugue) is connected with one of the warlike choruses of Act I.
The Overture of Riccardo I (1727), in two movements, contains a tempest in music painted in a powerful and poetic We now come to our last class of Handel's instrumental music; to which historians have given far too little attention, and in which Handel shows himself a precursor, and at the same time a model. I refer to the open-air music.
This took a prominent place in the English life. The environs of London were full of gardens, where, Pepys tells us, "vocal and instrumental concerts vied with the voices of the birds." Concerts were given at Vauxhall; at South Lambeth Palace on the Thames; at Ranelagh, near Chelsea, about two miles from the city; at Marylebone Garden; and Handel was always welcome there. From 1738 the proprietor of Vauxhall, Jonathan Tyer, erected in its gardens a statue of Handel, and this was hardly done when the Concerti Grossi became the favourite pieces at the concerts of Marylebone, Vauxhall, and Ranelagh. Burney tells us that he often heard them played by numerous orchestras. Handel wrote pieces especially intended for these garden concerts. Generally speaking, he attached little importance to them. They were little symphonies or unpretentious dances, like the Hornpipe, composed for the concert at Vauxhall in 1740. An anecdote related by Pohl and also by Chrysander, shows Handel pleasantly engaged on this music, which gave him no trouble at all.
But he composed on these lines some works tending towards a much vaster scale: from 1715 or 1717 the famous Water Music, written for the royal procession of barges on the Thames, and the Firework Music made to illustrate the firework display given in Green Park on April 27, 1749, in celebration of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.
The Water Music has a grand Serenade in the form of a suite comprising more than twenty movements. It opens with a pompous Opera-overture; then come some dialogues, with echoes of horns and drums, where the brass and the rest of the orchestra, which are arranged in two sections, respond. Then follow happy and soothing songs, dances, a Bourrée, a Hornpipe, Minuets, popular songs, which alternate and contrast with the joyful and powerful fanfares. The orchestra is very nearly the same as in his usual symphonies, except that considerable importance is given to the brass. One even finds in this work certain pieces written in the chamber-music style, or in the theatrical manner.
With the Firework Music the character of open-air music is even more definitely asserted, quite as much by the broad style of the piece as by the orchestration, which is confined entirely to the wind instruments. The composition is divided into two parts: an Overture which was to be played before the grand firework display, and a number of little pieces to be played during the display, and which corresponded to certain allegorical set pieces. The Overture is a sort of stately march in D major, and has some resemblance to the Overture of the Ritterballet (Huntsman's Dance) of Beethoven, and which is, like it, joyful, equestrian, and very sonorous. The shorter movements comprise a Bourrée, a Largo a la Siciliana, entitled Peace, of a beautiful heroic grace, which lulls itself to sleep; a very sprightly Allegro entitled The Rejoicing, and two Minuets for conclusion. It is an interesting work for the organisers of our popular fêtes and open-air spectacles to study. If we have said that after 1740 Handel wrote hardly any other instrumental music than the Firework Music, and the monumental concertos, a due cori (for two ) we have the feeling that the last evolution of his thought and instrumental style led him in the direction of music conceived for great masses, wide spaces, and huge audiences. He had always in him a popular vein of thought. I immediately call to mind the many popular inspirations with which his memory was stored, and which vivify the pages of his oratorios. His art, which renewed itself perpetually at this rustic source, had in his time an astonishing popularity. Certain airs from Ottone, Scipione, Arianna, Berenice, and such other of his operas, were circulated and vulgarised not only in England, but abroad, and even in France (generally so unyielding to outside influences).
It is not only of this popularity, a little banal, of which I wish to speak, which one could not ignore—for it is only a stupid pride and a small heart which denies great value to the art which pleases humble people;—what I wish to notice chiefly in the popular character of Handel's music is that it is always truly conceived for the people, and not for an élite dilettanti, as was the French Opera between Lully and Gluck. Without ever departing from his sovereign ideas of beautiful form, in which he gave no concession to the crowd, he reproduced in a language immediately " understanded of the people" those feelings in which all could share. This genial improvisor, compelled during the whole of his life (a half-century of creative power) to address from the stage a mixed public, for whom it was necessary to understand immediately, was like the orators of old, who had the cult of style and instinct for immediate and vital effect. Our epoch has lost the feeling of this type of art and men: pure artists who speak to the people and for the people, not for themselves or for their confreres. To-day the pure artists lock themselves within themselves, and those who speak to the people are most often mountebanks. The free England of the nineteenth century was in a certain measure related to the Roman republic, and indeed Handel's eloquence was not without relation to that of the epic orators, who sustained in the form their highly finished and passionate discourses, who left their mark on the shuddering crowd of loiterers. This eloquence did on occasion actually thrust itself into the soul of the nation as in the days of the Jacobite invasion, where Judas Maccabæus incarnated the public feeling. In the first performances of Israel in Egypt some of the auditors praised the heroic virtues of this music, which could raise up the populace and lead armies to victory.
By this power of popular appeal, as by all the other aspects of his genius, Handel was in the robust line of Cavalli and of Gluck, but he surpassed them. Alone, Beethoven has walked in these broader paths, and followed along the road which Handel had opened.
- It was the aesthetic of the period. Thus M. Mennicke writes: "Neutrality of orchestral colour characterises the time of Bach and Handel. The instrumentation corresponds to the registration of an Organ." The Symphonic orchestra is essentially built up on the strings. The wind instruments serve principally as ripieno. When they used the wood-wind obbligato, it went on throughout the movement and did not merely add a touch of colour here and there.
- One finds in the middle of the Trionfo del Tempo an instrumental Sonata for 2 Oboes, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Basso, and Organ. In the Solo of the Magdalene in the Resurrection, Handel uses two flutes, 'two violins (muted), viola da gamba, and cello; the cello is occupied with a pedal-note of thirty-nine bars at the opening, and then joins the clavecin. In the middle of the air, the viola da gamba and the flutes play by themselves.
- In Radamisto (1720) Tiridate's air: Alzo al colo, and final chorus. In Giulio Cesare, 4 horns. I do not suppose that Handel was the first to use the clarionets in an orchestra, as this appears very doubtful. One sees on a copy of Tamerlano by Schmidt: clar. e clarini (in place of the cornetti in the autograph manuscript). But it is feasible that just as with the "clarinettes" used by Rameau in the Acanthe et Céphise, the high trumpets are intended, Mr. Streatfeild mentions also a concerto for two '* clarinets " and corno di caccia, the MS. being in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge.
- Alcina, Semele, L'Allegro, Alexander's Feast, the little Ode to St. Cecilia, etc. Usually Handel imparts to the cello either an amorous desire or an elegiac consolation.
- Thus, in the famous scene which opens the second Act of Alexander's Feast (second part of the air in G minor), evoking the host of the dead who have wandered at night from their graves, there are no violins, no brass; just 3 bassoons, 2 violas, cello, bassi and organ.
- In Saul, the scene of the Sorcerer, apparition of the spirit of Samuel.
- The violette marine (little violas very soft) in Orlando (1733).
- The monster instruments used for the colossal performances at Westminster. The double bassoon by Stainsby made in 1727 for the coronation celebrations. Handel borrowed from the Captain of Artillery some huge drums preserved at the Tower of London, for Saul and for the Dettingen Te Deum. Moreover, like Berlioz, he was not afraid of using firearms in the orchestra. Mrs. Elizabeth Carter wrote: "Handel has literally introduced firearms into Judas Maccabæus; and they have a good effect" (Carter Correspondence, p. 134), and Sheridan, in a humorous sketch (Jupiter) represents an author who directs a pistol-shot to be fired behind the scenes, as saying, "See, I borrowed this from Handel."
- For the scene of Cleopatra's apparition on the Parnassus, at the opening of Act II of Giulio Cesare, Handel has two orchestras, one on the stage; Oboe, 2 Violins, Viola, Harp, Viola da gamba, Theorbo, Bassoons, Cellos; the other, in front. The first air of Cleopatra in Alexander Balus is accompanied by 2 Flutes, 2 Violins, Viola, 2 Cellos, Harp, Mandoline, Basses, Bassoon and Organ.
- Fritz Volbach: Die Praxis der Handel-Auffahrung, 1899.
- In addition to two parts for Flutes, two for Oboes, two for Bassoons, Violas, Cellos and Basses, Cembalo, Theorbo, Harp and Organ; in all, fifteen orchestral parts to accompany a single voice of Esther.
- For the Angel's Song.
- In Saul, "viola II per duoi violoncelli ripieni." (See Volbach, ibid.)
- Study from this point of view the progress from the very simple instrumentation of Alexander's Feast, where at first two Oboes are used with the strings, then appear successively two Bassoons (air No. 6), two Horns (air No. 9), two Trumpets and Drums (Part II), and, for conclusion, with the heavenly apparition of St. Cecilia, two Flutes.
- Dr. Hermann Abert has found the first indication: crescendo il forte in Jommelli's Artaserse, performed at Rome in 1749. In the eighteenth century the Abbé Vogler and Schubart already had attributed the invention of the Crescendo to Jommelli.
- See Lucien Kamiensky: Mannheim und Italien (Sammelbände der I.M.G., January-March, 1909).
- M. Volbach has noticed in the overture to the Choice of Hercules, second movement: piano, mezzo forte, un poco più forte, forte, mezzo piano, all in fourteen bars. In the chorus in Acis and Galatea, "Mourn, all ye muses," one reads forte, piano, pp.—The introduction of Zadock the Priest shows a colossal crescendo; the introductory movement to the final chorus in Deborah, a very broad diminuendo.
- H. Riemann: Zur Herkunft der dynamischen Schwellzeichen (I.M.G., February, 1909).
- Carle Mennicke notices the same sign for decrescendo (() on a long note in the Overture to Rameau's Acanthe et Céphise (1751).
- Geminiani says of the forte and the piano: "They are absolutely necessary to give expression to the melody; for all good music being the imitation of a fine discourse, these two ornaments have for their aim the varied inflections of the speaking voice." Telemann writes: "Song is the foundation of music, in every way. What the instruments play ought to be exactly after the principles of expression in singing."
And M. Volbach shows that these principles governed music then in Germany with all kinds of musicians, even with the trompettist Altenburg, whose School for the Trumpet was based on the principle that instrumental performance ought to be similar to vocal rendering.
- Max Seiffert: Die Verzierung der Sologesange in Haendels Messias (Sammelbände der I.M.G., July-September, 1907).
- Fritz Volbach reckons for the Concerto Grosso, 8 first violins, 8 seconds, 6 violas, 4 to 6 cellos, 4 basses—and for the Ripienists, 6 first violins, 6 seconds, 4 violas, 3 or 4 celli, and 3 basses.
These numbers are much greater than that of Handel's own performances. The programmes of a performance of the Messiah at the Foundling Hospital, May 3, 1759, a little after Handel's death, give only 56 executants, of which 33 were instrumentalists and 23 singers. The orchestra was divided into 12 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos, 4 oboes, 4 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 horns and drums (see Musical Times, May, 1902).
- "Leichtigkeit der Bewegung und Beweglichkeit des Ausdrucks," as Volbach tells us (suppleness of time and fluidity of expression); these are the essential qualities which alone will revive the true rendering of Handel's works.
- 12 Grand Concertos for stringed instruments and clavier (Vol. XXX of the Complete Edition), written from September 29 to October 20, 1739, between the little Ode to St. Cecilia and L'Allegro. They appeared in April, 1740. Another volume, of which we will speak later, is known under the name of Oboe Concertos, and contains six Concerti Grossi (Vol. XXI of the Complete Edition). Max Seiffert has published a well-edited practical edition of these concertos (Breitkopf).
- The Concertino consists of a trio for two violins and bass soli, with Cembalo Obbligato. The Germans introduced wood-wind into the concertino, combining thus a violin, an oboe, a bassoon. The Italians remained faithful, generally speaking, to the stringed instruments alone.
- The Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, of Corelli, published in 1712, represent his lifelong practice. About 1682, George Moffat, visiting Rome, sought to make acquaintance there with the Concerti Grossi of Corelli, who already wrote them for instrumental masses of considerable size. Burney speaks of a concert of 150 string instruments conducted by Corelli at the Palace of Christine of Sweden in 1680 (see Arnold Schering's excellent little book: Geschichte des Instrumentalkonzerts, 1905, Breitkopf).
- Geminiani caused three volumes of Corelli's Concertos to be published: Op. 2 (1732), Op. 3 (1735), Op. 7 (1748).
- Arnold Schering has noted the relationship between a subject of Geminiani and one in Handel's Concerto Grosso, No. 4.
- Volume XXI of the Complete Edition.
- About 1682, Moffat published at Salzburg his Armonico tributo, Chamber Sonatas, where he mingled the style of the Lullian Trio with the style of the Italian Concertino. And in 1701, at Passau, he published some Concerti Grossi in the Italian manner after the example of Corelli.
- Concerti Grossi, Amsterdam, 1721.
- Antonio Vivaldi of Venice (1680-1743), choirmaster of the Ospedale della Pieta from 1714, began to be known in Germany between 1710 and 1720. The arrangements of his Concerti Grossi, which J. S. Bach made, date from the time when Bach was at Weimar, that is between 1708 and 1714.
- Locatalli and Vivaldi came under the influence of the Italian Opera. Vivaldi himself wrote thirty-eight operas. One of the Concerti of Locatalli (Op. 7, 1741) was named Il pianto d'Arianna. In the Cimento dell' Armonia of Vivaldi four Concertos describe the four seasons, a fifth paints La Tempesta, a sixth Il Piacere (Pleasure). In Vivaldi's Op. 10 a Concerto represents La Notte (Night), another Il Cardellino (The Goldfinch). And Arnold Schering notices Vivaldi's influence in Germany on a Graupuer at Darmstadt, and on Jos. Gregorius Werner in Bohemia.
- See the following dates: September 29, 1739, Concerto I in G major; October 4, Concerto II in F major; October 6, Concerto III in E minor; October 8, Concerto IV in A minor; October 12, Concerto VII in B flat major; October 15, Concerto VI in G minor; October 18, Concerto VIII in C minor; October 20, Concerto XII in B minor; October 22, Concerto X in D minor; October 30, Concerto XI in A major (Vol. XXX of Complete Edition).
- One sees French influences particularly in the Tenth Concerto (in D minor), which has an Overture (Grave in 4–4 time and Fugue in 6–8). The whole movement preserves an abstract and irregular character. The last of the six movements—an Allegro Moderate, with Variations (very pretty)—resembles a tune for a musical box.
- See even the Third Concerto in E minor, so vivacious, with its Larghetto 3–2, melancholy and serene, its Andante 12–8 Fugue with an elaborate theme of twirling designs which gives the impression of the fancies of a capricious and gloomy soul, its Allegro in 4–4, with a humour a little grotesque—its picturesque Polonaise on a pedal-bass, and its final allegro ma non troppo of which the rhythm and unexpected modulations make one think of certain dances in the later quartets of Beethoven.
- The Fifth Concerto in D major maybe styled the Concerto to St. Cecilia; for three out of the six movements (the two first and the beautiful final minuet) are found again in the Overture to the little Ode to St. Cecilia.
- Arnold Schering believes that the idea of this Musette was given to Handel by a ritournelle from Leonardo Leo's S. Elena il Calvaroa.
- The two last allegri conclude the work a trifle brusquely. The order of the movements with Handel is often very surprising. It is as though he followed the caprice of the moment.
- We cannot continue here the analysis of the other volumes of Orchestral Concertos. I satisfy myself with merely enumerating them: The 6 Concerti grossi con due violini e violoncello di concertino obligati e due altri violini viola e basso di concerto grosso, op. 3, known under the name of Oboe Concertos (notwithstanding that the oboe does not play a very prominent rôle), were published in 1734, and seemed to have been performed at the Wedding of the Prince of Orange with the Princess Anne in 1733. But, as we are told, their composition was previous to this; for not only do we find in the third and the fifth the reproduction of fugues from the Clavier Pieces, but the fourth served in 1716 as the second overture to Amadigi, and the first movement of the fifth was played in 1722 in the opera Ottone. The form of these Concertos, even less set than with the preceding Concerti Grossi, varies from two to five movements, and their orchestration comprises, besides the strings, two oboes, to which are occasionally added two flutes, two bassoons, the organ and the clavecin. It is only exceptional that the oboe plays a solo part; more often it has to satisfy itself by reinforcing the violins.
To this volume we must add a number of other concertos, which appeared at different times, and are brought together in Volume XXI of the Complete Works; especially the celebrated Concerto of Alexander's Feast, written in January, 1736, of which the style has the same massive breadth as the oratorio itself. And four little concertos, two of which are interesting by being youthful works, from 1703 to 1710, according to Chrysander.
- Handel's Overtures were so much appreciated that the publisher Walsh issued a volume of them for the clavier (65 Overtures). A good specimen of these transcriptions is found in Volume XLVIII of the Complete Edition.
- Both movements are rudimentary.
- This device is often used by Handel to make the transition between the orchestra and the voice.
- Scheibe, who was, with Mattheson, the greatest of German musical critics in Handel's time, states that the overture ought in its two first movements "to mark the chief character of the work"; and in the third movement "to prepare for the first scene of the piece" (Krit. Musikus, 1745). Scheibe himself composed in 1738 some Sinfonie "which expressed to some extent the contents of the works" (Polyeuctes, Mithridates).
- Andante, larghetto, allegro (fugue).
- Only whereas a modern composer would not have omitted the opportunity of exposing his programme in an organic manner (by presenting turn by turn the two rival themes, then by bringing them into conflict, and finally terminating with the triumph of Israel's theme), Handel contents himself in exposing the two subjects without seeking to establish any further sequence. If he finishes his overture with the theme of Baal, it is because it is a gigue movement, and because the gigue serves well there for concluding; and because Israel's song being an adagio is better placed as the second movement. It is such architectural considerations which guide him rather than dramatic ones. It is the same with nearly all the symphonies of the eighteenth century. In the same manner even Beethoven in his Eroica symphony allows his hero to die and be buried in the second movement, and then celebrates his acts and his triumphs in the third and fourth movements.
- Amongst the other overtures, which have the character of introduction to the work proper, I will mention the Overture to Athalie, which is in perfect accordance with the tragedy;—that of Acis and Galatea, which is a Pastoral Symphony evoking the Pagan life of nature;—that of the Occasional Oratorio, a warlike overture with two marches, trumpet calls, and a Prayer of distress. There is also the outline of a programme in the Overture to Judas Maccabæus, of which the first movement is related to the Funeral Scene which opens the first act, and of which the second movement (Fugue) is connected with one of the warlike choruses of Act I.
The Overture of Riccardo I (1727), in two movements, contains a tempest in music painted in a powerful and poetic manner, which opens the first act after the manner of the Tempest in Iphigénie en Tauride, and on the last rumblings of which the dialogue between the heroes commences.
Finally one finds occasionally in the course of the works some other Sinfonie which have a dramatic character. The most striking is that which opens the third act of the Choice of Hercules. It depicts turn by turn the fury of Hercules and the sad force of Destiny which weighs down on his soul.
- Volume XLVIII of the Complete Works.
- The work was an immediate success. A first Edition very incorrect and incomplete was published in London about 1720, by Walsh. Arrangements for harpsichord with variations by Geminiani were also published. Both the Water Music and the Firework Music are published in Volume XLVII of the Complete Edition.
- One may add to these monumental pieces the Sinfonie diverse (pp. 140-143 of Vol. XLVIII) and the Concerto in F major in the form of an Overture and Suite (pp. 68-100, ibid.), but particularly the 3 Concerti für grosses Orchester and the 2 Concerti a due cori of Vol. XLVII. The Concerti für grosses Orchester have been, so to speak, the sketch books for the Water Music and for the Firework Music. The first Concerto dates from about 1715, and furnished two movements for the Water Music. It is written for two horns, two oboes, bassoon, two violins, violas and bass. The second Concerto in F major (for four horns, two oboes, bassoons, two violins, violas, cellos, basses and organ); and the third Concerto in D major (for two trumpets, four horns, drums, two oboes, bassoons, two violins, violas, cellos, organ) contains already nearly all the Firework Music with a less important orchestra, but with the Organ in addition.
The two Concertos for two horns (Concerti a due cori) were made from the important choruses of the Oratorios transcribed for double orchestra—ten orchestral parts for the first group, twelve for the second (four horns, eight oboes, bassoons, etc.). Thus the appearance of God in Esther: "Jehovah crowned in glory bright," and the connected chorus: "He comes to end our woes." There are there colossal dialogues between the two orchestras.
- The autograph MS., published in XLVII of the Complete Edition, contains: 2 parts for trumpets with 3 trumpets to a part (i.e. 6 trumpets); 3 Prinzipali (low trumpets); 3 drums; 3 parts for horns with 3 to a part (i.e. 9 Horns); 3 parts for oboes with 12 for the first part, 8 for the second and 4 for the third (i.e. 24 oboes); 2 parts for bassoons with 8 for the first and 4 for the second (i.e. 12 bassoons). Total, 70 wind instruments. There were about 100 players for the performance on April 27, 1749.
Later on, Handel reproduced the work for concert use by adding the string orchestra to it.
- Written for 9 horns in three sections, 24 oboes in two sections, and 12 bassoons.
- It would not be difficult to add other analogous works by Handel and Beethoven. There exists a fine repertoire of popular classical music for open-air fêtes. But, nevertheless, it is completely disregarded.
- The Gavotte theme from the Overture to Ottone was played all over England and on all kinds of instruments, "even on the pan's-pipes of the perambulating jugglers." It was found even at the end of the eighteenth century as a French vaudeville air. (see the Anthologie françoise ou Chansons choisies, published by Monnet, in 1765, Vol. I, p. 286). The March from Scipio, as also that from Rinaldo, served during half a century for the Parade of the Life Guards. The minuets and overtures from Arianna and Berenice had a long popularity. One sees in the English novels of the time (especially in Fielding's Tom Jones) to what an extent Handel's music had permeated English country life, even from the small country squires to the county magnates, so absolutely cut off as they were from all artistic influences.
- Paul Marie Masson has noticed that about the date of 1716, in a volume of Recueil d'airs serieux et à boire (Bibl. Nat. Vm. 549), an Aria del Signor Inden (sic), "air ajouté au ballet de l'Europe Galante." The Meslanges de musique latine, françoise et italienne of Ballard (in 1728), contains amongst the Italian airs Arie de Signor Endel (p. 61). All the airs of the Chasse du cerf by Sere de Rieux (1734) are Handel airs adapted to French words. An article by Michel Brenet, La librairie musicale en France de 1653 à 1790, d'après les registres de priviléges (Sammelbände I.M.G., 1907) gives a series of French Editions of Handel from 1736, 1739, 1749, 1751, 1765. In 1736 and in 1743 in Concerts Spirituels some of his airs and his Concerti Grossi were given (Brenet: Les Concerts en France sous l'ancien régime, 1900). A number of his airs were arranged for the flute by Blavet in his three Receuils de pièces, petits airs, brunettes, minuets, etc., accommodés pour les flutes traversières, violins, etc., which appeared between 1740 and 1750. Handel was so well known in Paris that they sold his portrait there in 1739. (See a tradesman's advertisement in the Mercure de France, June, 1739, Vol. II, page 1384.)