George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Handel travelled to Italy sometime in 1706, and by the beginning of 1707 was in Rome. There the Cardinals Carlo Colonna and Benedetto Pamphili were among the influential patrons for whom Handel provided compositions. While his first commissions were sacred works, he was soon composing secular cantatas. One of the first was Il delirio amoroso, a substantial setting for soprano, recorder, 3 violins, viola, cello and continuo of a text by Cardinal Pamphili. 

From May 1707, Handel was receiving the patronage of the Marchese Francesco Ruspoli, for whom he was to provide secular cantatas for his weekly musical gatherings. His association with Ruspoli continued on and off until the end of 1708, and during this time Handel composed over 50 cantatas for this patron, as well as some church works. Among those in the service of Ruspoli was the soprano Margherita Durastanti, and many of the cantatas Handel wrote at this time must have been performed by her. She remained one of Handel's favourite singers, for whom he was to write many operatic roles. The last season in which she sang for him was that of 1733-34.

Cantatas were much in demand from those patrons who promoted musical performances for their own musical circles (and between whom there was some rivalry). One factor creating the demand was the Papal ban on the performance of opera in Rome at this period.


Han 1

Cuopre tal volto il Cielo

Cantata

for bass (E-g\'), 2 violins and continuo

Price: £ 8.40

This cantata, with Spande ancor mio dispetto, is among only four solo cantatas that Handel wrote for a bass, although he made notable use of basses in his dramatic cantatas like Apollo e Dafne or Aci, Galatea, e Polifemo.

Cuopre tal volto il cielo portrays with dramatic force the effect of the loved one’s displeasure, by likening it to a storm at sea. This gives Handel a full opportunity to show his genius for dramatic writing, and provides exciting and challenging music for both the singer and the instrumentalists. It is not known who provided the text.

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Han 2

Spande ancor a mio dispetto

Cantata

for bass (E-g'), 2 violins and continuo

Price: £ 6.90

Spande ancor a mio dispetto depicts the lover’s heart as a river tumbling from rock to rock, whipped into a torrent by the storm of the beloved’s displeasure. At times it destroys the very flowers and trees it nourishes. It is full of telling word painting, descending figures tracing the precipitous course of the river, and excruciating chromaticism the heart’s pains.

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Han 3

Nell'Africane selve
Dalla guerra amorosa

Cantatas

for bass and continuo

Price: £ 6.90

The first of these cantatas, Nell’Africane selve, dates from his visit to Naples. It has been suggested that its composition was associated with the marriage of the Duke of Alvito to Beatrice Tocco in July 1708. The cantata is notable for its wide vocal range, and its extravagant word-painting. (Singers should not be daunted by the bottom C#, because alternatives are easily found, and the high notes may be sung - and indeed are probably intended to be sung - falsetto, to enhance the word painting.) The second of the cantatas, Dalla guerra amorosa, is thought to be among those written for Ruspoli, possibly after Handel’s return from Naples, as the manuscript source is a copy made for Ruspoli in August 1709. This work is more delicate and even poignant – the aria to the fading of beauty, La bellezza è come un fiore, is reminiscent of Come rosa in su la spina in Apollo e Dafne . The cantata has a refrain (Fuggite, sì fuggite) which is also reflected in the music, and ends with a delightful arioso following the last refrain.

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Han 4

Four Cantatas from Rome, 1707

for solo soprano (c'-a''), and continuo

Price: £ 8.40

Aure soavi e liete
Menzognere speranze

Nella stagion, che de viole e rose

Poichè giuraro Amore

Of the four cantatas of this present edition Menzognere speranze was copied for Ruspoli in September 1707, the others in May 1707. The four cantatas follow what had become the standard pattern for Handel by this time - each consists of two recitative-aria pairs. The arias are all set Da Capo.

Handel's autograph of these cantatas is in the British Library's Royal Music Collection, R.M.20.d.11, and a copy is to be found in the MS , Egerton 2942.

Ellen T Harris' book Handel as Orpheus is invaluable for the help it gives in setting these chamber cantatas in their social and historical context.

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Han 5A

Languia di bocca lusinghiera

Recit & Aria from HWV 123

for soprano (d'-g''), oboe, violin and bc

Price: £ 5.00

According to Ellen T Harris (op.cit. above) it is probable that Languia di bocca lusinghiera was composed in 1710 in Hanover, since the style of paper used by Handel suggests this. Harris also suggests that Languia di bocca lusinghiera may not be the fragment of a cantata, as is suggested in the Handelgesellschaft edition, but may have been intended for an opera. This is supported by the fact that, as Mayo points out, Handel reused the aria Dolce bocca for the aria Finte labbra in Il Pastor Fido (1712.)

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Han 6

O Ruddier than the Cherry! 

Recit & Aria from Acis & Galatea

for bass (F-f\'\'), recorder, two violins and bc

Price: £ 5.90

After Handel had spent some time in London, enjoying the patronage of Lord Burlington, in 1717 he was engaged by the Earl of Carnarvon ( later Lord Chandos) as the resident composer at Cannons. Acis and Galatea was one of two English masques Handel wrote, possibly for performance at Cannons, and dates from 1718. The modest scale of the work suggests that the musical establishment at Cannons was not large at this time. However the work contains a full range of dramatic characterisation. This recitative and aria for Polypheme, the cyclopean monster who has become infatuated with the tragic heroine Galatea, is a masterpiece of grotesque humour.

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Han 7

Four Duets - I

for soprano (b-g''#), bass (F-f'#), and bc

Price: £ 8.70

Che vai pensando (HWV 184)
Tacete, ohimè, tacete (HWV 196)

Research on the autographs of the chamber duets has shown that the manuscript paper Handel used for Che vai pensando, Giù nei Tartarei regni and Quando in calma ride, was associated with this period. Ellen T Harris groups the first two as probably written in Florence or Venice between October 1708 and October 1709, and Quando in calma ride, though more difficult to date , she groups with the opera Agrippina and the dramatic cantata Apollo e Dafne, also likely to have been written in Florence or Venice. The remaining duet in this edition, Tacete, ohimè, tacete is from an earlier group of compositions, probably written in 1706 when Handel first arrived in Italy. An interesting point is made that at this time Handel signed the autograph “G. F. Händel” whereas in the later autographs he had italianized his name to “Hendel”.

These works therefore show the youthful exuberance of the 21 year old Handel. They are not characterised by their setting of the words, but instead are flamboyant demonstrations of contrapuntal writing, instrumental in style, making use of daring harmonic (and in one case enharmonic) progressions and chromaticism, and enlivened by changes of tempo and rhythm.

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Han 8

Four Duets - II

for soprano (b-g''#), bass (F-f'#), and bc

Price: £ 7.50

Quando in calma ride (HWV 191)
Giù nei Tartarei
(HWV 187)

Research on the autographs of the chamber duets has shown that the manuscript paper Handel used for Che vai pensando, Giù nei Tartarei regni and Quando in calma ride, was associated with this period. Ellen T Harris groups the first two as probably written in Florence or Venice between October 1708 and October 1709, and Quando in calma ride, though more difficult to date , she groups with the opera Agrippina and the dramatic cantata Apollo e Dafne, also likely to have been written in Florence or Venice.

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Han 9

Two Arias from Eccheggiate, festeggiate (HWV 119)

with oboe, violin and continuo

Price: £ 6.50

Io languisco fra le gioje - for alto (bflat-c'')
Anche il ciel divien amante - for soprano (d'-a'')

The serenata Echeggiate, festeggiate Numi eterni (HWV 119) survives only in an incomplete autograph in the Royal Music Collection in the British Library (R.M. 20.e 4.), which can now be shown to have been bound in the wrong order. This has had the consequence that the Chrysander edition shows the work as an incomplete cantata Io languisco frà le gioje. Research has also revealed that the paper used by Handel is associated with his first periods in London from the autumn of 1710 onwards. The references in the work to ‘Carlo l’Augusto’ and ‘il rege d’Iberia è Carlo solo’ imply a celebration of the intended accession of the Habsburg Archduke Charles as King Carlos III of Spain, and opposition to the French intention of establishing Louis’ grandson Philippe D’Anjou as king. However, as Charles succeeded as Emperor in April 1711, it became preferable to Britain and the other members of the Alliance, that Spain should remain under Philip, rather than become part of the Habsburg empire. An end to the warring over the Spanish succession was therefore sought, and the peace process resulted in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. There was therefore only a short ‘window’ in which the sentiments expressed in Echeggiate, festeggiatewere politically relevant, and during which it could have been performed. It is possible that it never was performed for this reason, and this may explain why the work was not as well preserved as many of Handel’s autographs.

The two arias are sung by the mythical characters of Juno (Giunone) and Minerva. Juno was wife of Jupiter and protectress of the State and is heralding a new era of peace, while Minerva, the warrior-goddess, is extolling the heroic qualities of Charles, and offers the approbation of the gods, and even a place among them.

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Han 10

Ah! spietato! Recit. and Aria from Amadigi

for soprano (e\'-g\'\'), oboe, 2 violins, viola and bassi

Price: £ 5.50

The opera Amadigi di Gaula, was composed while Handel was living at Lord Burlington’s residence, Burlington House Piccadilly, and received its first performance in May 1715 at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. It was Handel’s fourth opera composed for the Haymarket opera series, following Rinaldo, Il Pastor Fido, and Teseo.

According to Grove, Amadigi was comparatively successful, and was given a spectacular production ‘with variety of Dancing’ and ‘a great many Scenes and Machines’.

Like Rinaldo and Teseo, Amadigi has a plot based on magic and sorcery. Melissa the sorceress is both a passionate and a tragic figure, and her music shows matching characteristics. This aria, Ah! spietato is Melissa’s first, conveying her hurt and anger at her rejection  by Amadigi, whose love she craves, and this is reflected in the contrasting parts of the aria.

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Han 11

Three Arias from Solomon

with strings and bc

Price: £ 7.50

When the sun o'er yonder hills - alto/mezzo (bflat-f'')
Can I see my infant gor'd? - soprano (e'flat-g'')
Golden Columns fair and bright - tenor (d-f'#)

In When the sun o’er yonder hills, Solomon vows life-long praise of God for the gift of wisdom. The second aria, Can I see my infant gor’d? records the famous instance of Solomon’s wisdom in judging which of the two prostitutes was the true mother of the surviving baby, and is full of drama and pathos. The third aria has Zadok the priest extolling the magnificence of the finished Temple.

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Han 12

Oh! that I on wings could rise

Recit. & Air from Theodora

for soprano (d’-g’’), violin & bc

Price: £ 5.00

Theodora is among Handel's last oratorios, and received its first performance in 1750. It is unusual in being a tragedy.
As a Christian, Theodora has refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods Venus and Flora, and has in consequence been condemned to a life of prostitution. This aria is the second of two arias sung by Theodora after she has been arrested and confined. As is evident from the words of her aria, she would prefer death rather than this humiliating punishment.
Subsequently she gains her freedom through the help of Didymus, who is in love with her, but her rescuer is caught and condemned to death. Theodora feels compelled to give herself up to suffer the penalty in his place. Finally they are both executed.

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Han 13

Welcome as the Dawn of Day

Recit. & Duet from Solomon

for 2 sopranos (e’-f’’#; b-d’’), 2 violins, bassi & bc

Price: £ 6.50

When he was resident at Cannons, Handel composed two English masques, Acis and Galatea, and Esther. Some years later, with the declining popularity of Italian opera in London, he revised and expanded Esther for public performance at the Kings Theatre in 1732 . This was a success with the public, and thereafter oratorio became an established part of the London musical season.

His numerous works in this new genre included Messiah, composed in 1741. Solomon received its first performance as part of the 1749 season in Covent Garden. It is generally supposed that this work, with its depiction of Solomon’s piety, his wisdom, and the prosperity of his reign, was Handel’s tribute to King George II, in the relatively calm period after the end of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745, and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748.

This Duet is from Act 1 of the oratorio, and portrays the state of wedded bliss of Solomon and his Queen. This draws an approving comment from Zadok the priest. The duet is succeeded by an urgent invitation by Solomon for his Queen to retire with him to the cedar grove where "am'rous turtles" make love.

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Han 14

Aria: Ombre, piante

from Rodelinda (HWV 19)

for soprano (f’#-a’’), flute & strings

Price: £ 5.00

Handel’s opera Rodelinda, Regina di Langobardi, was composed for performance at the King’s Theatre Haymarket in London, where it received its first performance in 1724. The libretto was written by Niccolo Haym, based on a play of the same title, produced in Florence in 1710. Haym was both a composer and a cellist whose career in the London theatre was initially at Drury Lane, and subsequently with the Italian opera company at the Haymarket Theatre. He wrote or revised the texts of a number of Italian operas, including Rodelinda, and others by Handel.

Rodelinda has lost her husband Bertarido, King of Lombardy; he has been deposed, and she believes him dead. A tomb has been erected to him, and this seems to confirm this belief. Rodelinda with her son Flavio approach the tomb to lay a wreath, watched, unknown to her, by her husband who has returned secretly. This is Rodelinda’s sad reflection on her situation

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Han 15

O Numi eterni! (La Lucretia)

Cantata (HWV 145)

for soprano (c’-b’’flat) & bc

Price: £ 6.90

Handel’s chamber cantata O Numi eterni!which was given the title La Lucretia’ by Handel himself, is unusual in that it is one of Handel’s earlier essays in this genre, probably dating to 1706, before his arrival in Rome. It does not have the more rigorous alternation of recitative and aria characteristic of later cantatas. This cantata recalls, in her own voice, the tragic story of Lucretia, who was raped by a member of the Tarquin family; as she is not avenged, she finally takes her own life to expunge her own dishonour. The event is said to have sparked the revolution that saw the overthrow of the Tarquin dynasty and the establishment of the Republic.

Lucretia thus suffers extreme emotional anguish, torn between the two sorts of retribution. The looser structure of the work is illustrative of the passionate and dramatic elements of the monologue. After the first two pairs of recit. and aria, the form becomes much looser, with the succeeding recit. dissolving into a passage marked furioso, expressive of the seething emotion of the heroine. This passage is followed by a fragment of recit. as Lucretia prepares to take her own life, but this again dissolves into another passage of arioso as she reiterates her feeling of guilt over her loss of honour. In the following recit. she begs the forgiveness of her family and Rome; this is followed by a passage which Handel himself marked Arioso, in which she takes the sword to herself. This breaks suddenly into a final furioso in which she swears as she dies to wreak revenge on the tyrant from hell itself.

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Han 16

Mi palpita il cor (HWV 132b)

for soprano (d'-a''), oboe and continuo

Price: £ 6.90

Some time after he had established himself in London, Handel revised an earlier cantata, Dimmi o mio cor, (HWV 106), for soprano and continuo, written possibly for one of his Roman patrons, by the addition of the opening recitative Mi palpita il cor, with an arioso passage agitata è l’alma mia, and the rewriting of the other recitatives, to become the cantata Mi palpita il cor (HWV 132a). This takes its place among the group designated by Ellen T Harris the London solo cantatas. These were produced over the period 1710 to 1722, and are among the last of Handel’s works produced for private consumption.

In addition to HWV 132a, there are two further revisions with the same opening recitative, Mi Palpita il cor: HWV 132c for alto with flute obbligato, and the present work, HWV 132b for soprano with oboe obbligato. Harris suggests that all these revised works were produced by Handel primarily for teaching : Handel was probably in demand as a teacher, and by 1723 had been appointed music tutor to the royal princesses.

This present delightful short cantata for soprano with oboe has the abbreviated form rArA, with the difference already mentioned, of the arioso passage agitata è l’alma mia appended to the opening recitative. The work is justly prized for its lively and lyrical writing for both voice and instrument.

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Han 17

Armida abbandonata

Dietro l\'orme fugaci (HWV 105)
Cantata

for soprano (c\'-a\'\'), two violins and bc

Price: £ 7.90

Armida Abbandonata dates in 1707, so it is among the first cantatas Handel wrote for Handel\'s patron Marchese Ruspoli. The libretto, author unknown, is based on Tasso’s poem Gerusalemme liberata in which the crusading knight Rinaldo escapes from Armida’s enchanted island.  The cantata starts with a narrative recitative remarkably set to violin arpeggios with no basso continuo.  This sets the scene of Rinaldo’s flight and Armida’s fruitless pursuit. The remainder of the work comprises, in Armida’s own voice, her pleading laments, her anger and curses, their recantation, and her eventual despair.

Ellen Harris1 shows that Armida’s situation and emotions have much in common with other wronged or abandoned women depicted in Handel’s works – Lucretia,2 Clori (Clori mia bella Clori), Hero (Ero e Leandro), and Agrippina (Agrippina condotto a morire).  Their intense feelings give Handel the scope for the sort of dramatic musical expression in which he excels.  Note that the music depicting the storm at the start of the aria Venti, fermate is similar to that of the storm in the slightly later cantata for bass, Cuopre tal volto il cielo.3

1. Harris , Ellen: Handel as Orpheus. Voice and desire in the chamber cantatas. Harvard University press, 2001
2. Green Man Press, Han 15, O Nume eterni!
3. Green Man Press, Han 1, Cuopre tal volto il cielo

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Han 18

Nel dolce dell'oblio

Pensieri notturni di Filli
Cantata (HWV 134)

for soprano (c'-a''), recorder and bc

Price: £ 6.20

It is thought that the present instrumental cantata, Nel dolce dell’oblio, whose title is properly Pensieri notturni di Filli does in fact date from 1707, at the start of Handel’s period in Rome,  on the evidence of the paper used in the autograph, and his style of handwriting at that time. As is usual in Handel’s solo cantatas at this time the work consists of two Recit-Aria pairs, although for instrumental cantatas the structure was often based on three or even four pairs.

It is not known who contributed the libretto for this cantata. It is a little unusual in that the singer refers to his lover as “my adored Phillis”, but then goes on to describe only Phillis’ feelings and imaginings, as an ‘omniscient author’.  It seems that Phillis is having a nice time half dreaming of her lover, but the final aria warns that this may be followed by sorrow when the imaginings fade.

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Han 19

Un\'alma innamorata

Cantata for soprano (d\'-a\'\'), violin and continuo

soprano, violin and continuo

Price: £ 6.90

This edition of Un\'alma innamorata (HWV 173) is based on Handel\'s autograph R.M. 20.e.2 in the Royal Music Collection of the British Library, to whom we are grateful for making available a copy for study. The work is described by Handel himself as \"Cantata con stromenti\": the writing for the obbligato instrument strongly suggests the violin. The cantata consists unremarkably of 3 Recit. - aria pairs: the final aria is unusual in being a 3/8 dance like movement whose binary structure has been expanded to give a da capo.

The writing is notable for the use of chromatic variation and extravagant leaps in the obbligato part of the first aria, suggestive of the anguish of the lover, but recounted with a touch of irony. By contrast the tone of the second aria reflects a mood change and is decidedly light-hearted.

There is no indication in the libretto as to whether the \"voice\" is male or female, but the irreverent tone and the light-hearted reference to dalliance perhaps suggest a male persona?

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CVR 3195

Three Arias for Alto Voice & Trumpet

O be Joyful in the Lord (Jubilate for the peace of Utrecht)
Vedo il ciel più sereno (La Resurezzione)
Con tromba guerriera m\'invita la fama (Silla)

for alto, trumpet in D & keyboard

Price: £ 5.50
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CVR 3196

Three Arias for Tenor & Trumpet

Mirth, with thee I mean to live (L\'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato)
All\'armi, guerrieri (Giustino)
Stragi, morti, sangue ed armi (Radamisto)

for tenor, trumpet in D & keyboard

Price: £ 5.50
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CVR 3205

Three Arias for Soprano & Trumpet

for soprano, trumpet in D & keyboard

Price: £ 5.00

Let the Bright Seraphim

Desterò dall\'empia dite (Amadigi)
Alle voci del bronzo guerriero (Cantata HWV 143)

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CVR 3206

Three Arias for Bass Voice & Trumpet

The Trumpet shall sound (Messiah)
Thou art the King of Glory (Dettingen Te Deum)
Già risonar d'intorno al campidoglio io sento (Ezio)

for bass, trumpet in D & keyboard

Price: £ 6.50
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CVR 3207

Eternal Source of Light Divine

from the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne

Transposed Edition

Price: £ 4.00

for soprano, trumpet in D & keyboard

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CVR 3208

Eternal Source of Light Divine

from the Ode for the birthday of Queen Anne

for alto/countertenor, trumpet in D & keyboard

Price: £ 4.00
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CVR 3843

Eternal Source of Light Divine

from the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne

Transposed edition - C ma

Price: £ 4.00

for soprano, trumpet in C & keyboard

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