Volume 67, Summer 2011
George Frideric Handel et al
Fitzwilliam Handeliana vol.2:
George Frideric Handel - unpublished
18th-century keyboard arrangements of his music,
and unfamiliar solo keyboard works
of the time composed in the
Handelian manner: harpsichord/organ
ed GERALD GIFFORD
Edition HH, HH 245.SOL, Bicester, 2010
ISMN 979 0 708059 95 0
Gerald Gifford's ongoing series of publications from the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, of which he is the Honorary Keeper of Music, is a major contribution to our understanding of 18th-century musical life in England. The second volume in the series is particularly exciting as it contains largely unfamiliar, and occasionally previously unidentified, works associated with Handel and with Viscount Fitzwilliam, the original creator of the collection.
The Viscount himself transcribed a keyboard version of Handel's Overture to Samson, included in this volume, an activity which was no doubt engaged in by many amateur musicians of the period, whose efforts have unfortunately not been similarly preserved. The transcription, while drawing to some extent on Wright's generally less satisfactory version of c1785, shows interesting responses to the texture and layout of the original, which indicate the sophistication and skill of this particular upper-class connoisseur.
The most substantial work in this varied collection is the Concerto per il Gravicembalo, a rare solo keyboard arrangement of Handel's magnificent four- movement Concerto Grosso in C major, associated with Alexander's Feast. It is taken from a manuscript acquired by Viscount Fitzwilliam in 1767, and although the arranger is not identified, the effectiveness of the arrangement indicates the work of an accomplished and resourceful musician.
Several of the works in the volume cast very interesting sidelights on questions of ornamentation, for example the transcription by an unknown arranger of music from Handel's Scipione, which differs somewhat in this respect from the version printed in the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe. Such differing versions of the music naturally enrich our understanding of the types of ornamentation applied in different circumstances, and are a valuable resource both to the scholar and performer. Similarly, the inclusion of the early Handel autograph version of the Sonata in C major HWV 578 allows instructive comparison with Handel's later more polished autograph, its alterations and corrections giving an insight into the composer's working practice.
The collection also provides a well-chosen grouping of pieces that are enjoyable in their own right. The printing is perfectly clear and the volume has been excellently laid out for use at the keyboard. The editing, as one would expect of this eminent scholar, is always illuminating without ever being intrusive, and the textual notes give a full account of the editorial method and the provenance and detail of the scores. Gerald Gifford's informative introduction is, as ever, an invaluable asset to this volume, which should form a key element of the performer's and scholar's library.
We are grateful to John Collins and theJournal of the British Institute of Organ Studies for permission to reproduce this review.