Roman Handel

Friday, October 22, 2010, First Parish, Sudbury
Saturday, October 23, 2010, Emmanuel Church, Boston

Concerto in D Minor ............ attributed to George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Fuori del sua capanna ............ Giovanni Bononcini (1678-1741)

Trio Sonata in Bb Major, op. 2, no. 5 ............ Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
    Preludio (Adagio)       
    Allemanda (Allegro)
    Tempo di Gavotta

Amor di che tu vuoi          Giovanni Lulier (c1662-1700)


Lascia la spina (from Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno, HWV 46a) ............ Handel
Concerto in A Minor for flute, two violins, and continuo ............ Francesco Gasparini (1661-1727)

Tu fedel? tu costante? ............ Handel

Kristen Watson, soprano
Suzanne Stumpf, traverso; Sarah Darling and Jesse Irons, violins
 Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, harpsichord

traverso by Martin Wenner, 2007, after Palanca
 violins by anon. (possibly French) labeled Carlo Bergonzi, and tba
 cello by an anonymous Belgian maker, c. 1700; harpsichord by Jacob Kaeser, 1993, after 18th-c. German models


Program Notes

In 1706, at the age of 21, George Frideric Handel departed his native Germany for Italy on the invitation of Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici. His ensuing four-year Italian sojourn brought him into contact with the finest musical circles in Rome, Florence, and Venice and had a profound effect on his development as a composer. Handel came to Italy with limited experience as a composer of vocal music. His most important previous experience had been his work as violinist, then keyboardist, under Reinhard Keiser at the Hamburg Opera.

While in Italy, most of Handel’s activities were centered in Rome, where his first musical patron was Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili (1653-1730). Pamphili was an avid music lover, art collector, and poet. He sponsored oratorios, operas, and wrote many texts for cantatas, many of which were composed for his regular Sunday concerts or academies that took place at his palace on the Corso. Pamphili employed several fine composers in his household, including all of the composers represented on this program.

Among the most distinguished of Pamphili’s household musicians was Arcangelo Corelli who, from 1687, served as his maestro di musica. It was at Pamphili’s academies that Corelli’s opus 2 trio sonatas were likely first performed. Published in 1685 and dedicated to the Cardinal, these works are in the Sonata da camera form, consisting of a series of succinct and ingeniously constructed dance movements. An unusual feature of the fifth sonata is Corelli’s use of fugal elements in the Allemanda, which uses an inversion of the first section’s subject in the second section.

Corelli not only composed for Pamphili, but was also involved in the performances of the large-scale oratorios sponsored by the cardinal. Corelli likely led the orchestra for Handel’s first oratorio Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno which was composed in the spring of 1707 to a text by Pamphili. Its most famous aria Lascia la spina was reused almost four years later in his opera Rinaldo.

An important colleague of Corelli was the cellist Giovanni Lulier. Also known as “Giovannino del violone,” Lulier often performed with Corelli in the trio that would comprise the concertino section in Corelli’s concerti grossi. Lulier also served the Pamphili household as a composer of cantatas and oratorios. His cantata Amor che voui is a fine example of his sensitivity and expressiveness as a composer. The text, which praises the eyes of a beloved, is given evocative setting throughout and is particularly luminous in the central arioso Quelle luci son due stelle che si belle with its gently rising and falling figuration.

Another of Pamphili’s musicians was Giovanni Bononcini, a cellist and member of the cardinal’s orchestra. His cantata Fuori del sua capanna is unusual in its use of the transverse flute, an instrument rare in Italy in the early eighteenth century. The instrumentation is used to great effect in the imitation of a nightingale which beguiles the protagonist in the text of the first aria and, in the second aria, is woven into a plaintive duet with the soprano part.

The quartet that opens this program survives in a manuscript the music library of the Count Rudolf von Schönborn of Bavaria, an amateur cellist who commissioned many works with obbligato cello parts. While the work has not been authenticated as a genuine work by Handel, it possesses many features that resemble Handel’s early compositional style, including the juxtaposition of dotted figuration with lyrical lines in the first movement, skillful fugal writing in the second movement, and frequent use of deceptive cadences.

Franceso Gasparini was a participant in Pamphili’s academies, both as a violinist and composer, and set many of Pamphili’s cantata texts to music. He was a prolific composer of operas, oratorios, and other vocal music. The flute concerto included on this program is one of his few surviving works for instrumental ensemble. Its second and third movements seem very vocally conceived, with its third movement written in the form of a da capo aria.

Handel’s cantata Tu fedel? tu costante? was composed in 1707, soon after Il trionfo del Tempo for his second and most important Italian patron, the Marchese Francesco Maria Ruspoli. The text centers around the emotions of a woman in the process of rejecting her fickle lover. The arias in this work constitute some of Handel’s most masterful writing of this period and, indeed, Handel saw fit to reuse much of this material. The arias Se Licori and Si crudel were used in his opera Rodrigo a few months later, and the final aria served as the basis for the final chorus in his 1736 oratorio Alexander’s Feast.

© Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf