Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies
Volume 34, 2010
Fitzwilliam Handeliana Volume 2: George Frideric Handel - unpublished 18th century keyboard arrangements of his music and unfamiliar solo keyboard works of the time composed in Handelian manner.
Editor: Gerald Gifford.
Published by Edition HH, Launton (2010) £14.95
Available through www.editionhh.co.uk
ISMN 979 0708059 95 0, ISBN 978 1905779 50 5
This volume contains arrangements of nine pieces either by Handel or composed in his manner taken from MSS collected by Viscount Fitzwilliam and now in the eponymous museum in Cambridge. The first piece is a splendid four-movernent work entitled Concerto per il Gravicembalo and comprises a most rewarding and competent adaptation for keyboard of the Concerto Grosso in C associated with Alexander's Feast, acquired by Fitzwilliam in 1767. It is in four movements: a through-composed Allegro, a dotted-rhythm Largo, a second Allegro in imitative style and an Andante ma non presto in two parts throughout. The phrasing of the Scotch-snap paired quavers is carefully notated throughout, its gavotte-like style being confirmed by its appearance as the final movement of No. 2, the Sonata in C, which is headed Gavotte, non troppo presto. This Sonata, here taken from an earlier autograph than the one published as No. 17 in the third volume of the Bärenreiter Handel edition, was probably conceived originally for a clock-organ. It is in three movements, a vibrant allegro in two parts until the last few bars are followed by another dotted-rhythm larghetto with trills in thirds and a shorter version of the movement that concludes the preceding Concerto, here with only the first pair of quavers notated as a Scotch snap.
The third piece is a short one-movement Sonatina per Cembalo, an earlier version of No. 13 in the fourth volume of the Bärenreiter edition. Following this is an arrangement of the Aria: Oh cara spene del mio diletto from Il Floridante, the arranger being unidentified. In da-capo form, this attractive setting contains several old-fashioned ornament signs including sloping lines (backfalls), wavy lines (beats) and the sloping line preceding the semicircle over two horizontal lines (forefall and shake). The next piece is a substantial arrangement by Fitzwilliam himself of The Overture and Minuet in Samson, which contains several differences from the printed versions by Walsh and Wright (the former available in a facsimile reprint from Dover); Fitzwilliam's version, although showing improvements on the printed ones, still contains passages that are unwieldy particularly for small hands, but, as seen in vol. 1 of this series, the Viscount's own compositions reveal a formidable technical adroitness, not perhaps a surprise in view of his studies with Duphly. This splendid Overture opens with a rhythmically varied allegro in binary form, a three bar adagio clearly requiring improvisation leading to a most vigorous allegro with its repetitive drum-beat dactyls; in loosely fugal form the subject covers an ascending octave, a further short adagio concluding this movement which with its repeated-notes semiquavers and passages in thirds offers a considerable challenge. Even the final Minuet has tricky passages in thirds.
The sixth piece, an unidentified and untitled movement in the source, although clearly a sarabande in style, is full of sensuous harmonies, full chords, an 'Adagio ad lib' in the first half, and a further liberal sprinkling of the old-style ornament signs, as is the following arrangement of the Menuet from Tamerlano, probably in earlier version than the one printed by Walsh. There follow arrangements of part of the Minuet and of the March front Saul with its unusual ornamentation, which, however, is skilfully applied, this arrangement being a most effective change to the better-known one. Another unidentified but highly able Sarabande was understandably appreciated by Samuel Wesley, and the collection is rounded off by a short version of the final movement of a sonata in C by the Swedish composer Johan Helmich Roman, that was not included in his MSS collections. In binary form and in two parts throughout the Handelian influence is obvious in its flowing passagework, although the RH syncopations towards the end are less so (the introduction contains a facsimile). This movement is far more representative of his known admiration for Handel than most of the movements in the twelve suites/sonatas.
Gerald Gifford has provided a most interesting selection of pieces, several of which show 'work-in-progress' from a particular time; comparison with the published editions (where available) will be worthwhile. The thorough introduction documents the provenance of the MSS consulted and used for this edition and discusses the compositional process. Three facsimiles are provided. The comprehensive textual notes amplify many points from the introduction and should most certainly be read before playing. This volume includes plenty of material that, individual titles notwithstanding, works just as successfully on the organ as on the harpsichord; several pieces will need a careful approach to fingering and ornamentation to ensure clarity in performance, but most of these pieces make excellent additions to a recital or, indeed, concluding voluntaries. As to be expected from Dr Gifford the editing is exemplary and the printing clear, in most pieces the practical layout ensures that page-turns are manageable.
I look forward with anticipation to future volumes in this imaginative series that will further enhance our understanding of the impact of Handel's music in eighteenth-century England by making available some of the many unpublished and hitherto neglected contemporary sources containing both Handel's own works and those of his followers.
We are grateful to John Collins and theJournal of the British Institute of Organ Studies for permission to reproduce this review.