Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies
Volume 33, 2009
Fitzwilliam Handeliana Volume 1: Compositions for harpsichord and organ
Editor: Gerald Gifford, and published by Edition HH, £14.95
Available through: http:/www.editionhh.co.uk
This volume contains twenty-one compositions for harpsichord and organ by Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, (1745-1816) the founder of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and, judging from this selection of pieces from MS159, an accomplished composer, who had taken lessons with John Keeble in England and Jacques Duphly in Paris, and built up a library of many outstanding prints from Philip Hart's collection of 1704 onwards. Several of the pieces in the same key were almost certainly intended to be grouped together, both from the forms used, and also from linking thematic motifs such as the use of A-C#-D#-E in nos. 18 to 20. Also making pleasing suites of pieces are nos. 1-2 in G minor, nos. 3-5 in B flat, 6-9 in E minor, nos. 10-11 in D minor, nos. 12-15 in D major, and nos. 16-17 in C major.
Handel's influence is clearly apparent in many pieces, particularly in the Allegros in B flat no. 5 and D no. 14 and especially in the Minuet no. 17 which is markedly similar to Handel's Minuet from Rodelinda, the original being included as Appendix 2 and also in the Allemande, Courante and Giga in E minor. Other traceable influences in these pieces include Roseingrave in the Allegro, no.1, Stanley in the piece for two manuals in E minor and the similar Largo in D minor no. 12, and Keeble in the dotted rhythm Andante followed by a incisively sequential Allegro no.16. Also discernable as an influence is Paradies whose sonatas were published in 1754. These pieces display their composer's assimilation of a wide range of styles, also, however, with the possibility of their being intentionally derivative as homage.
One charming touch in the Air and variation in D no. 15 is the transference of the melody to the bass in the variation. Also of note are the passages in octaves that conclude several pieces. Of particular interest here is no. 21, the overture to Dardanus by Rameau as transcribed by Lord Fitzwilliam, the Allegro requiring much care to ensure that its many repeated semiquavers are heard cleanly and clearly. The concluding Rigaudon makes an attractive end to this collection, many of which would sound just as well on the organ as on the harpsichord.
Several of the pieces, although in two voices only, will need careful and alert fingering and phrasing, a testimony to the success of the studies that Viscount Fitzwilliam undertook. The introduction contains much interesting information about the Viscount's life and studies, as well as the specification of the small Snetzler organ that he played. Appendix 1 shows Fitzwilliam's slightly abbreviated setting using a cantus firmus motif utilised by Thomas Morley for his treatment of discant, in which Fitzwilliam follows Keeble's example of meticulously annotating the contrapuntal devices used. There is a full set of textual notes covering the source description, editorial method and critical commentary which includes one or two alternatives found in the MS. I understand that further comments about the stylistic background to Fitzwilliam's harpsichord compositions are to be included in the Introduction to a companion volume, which is in preparation. Meanwhile this selection offers plenty of excitingly fresh material for organists to include in concerts and as post-service voluntaries. The editing is exemplary and the printing clear.
We are grateful to theJournal of the British Institute of Organ Studies for permission to reproduce this review.