Four Duets - I

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

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

Ref. no Han 07 (in 'cantatas')           sample page      cover page      To order:     

  • 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.