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The British Institute of Organ Studies

John Collins

Yearbook 36

Handelís celebrated ďoboeĒ Concertos

An anonymous late 18th century adaptation for Organ,
Harpsichord or Piano Forte of Handelís Six Concerti Grossi op. 3.

Editor: Gerald Gifford
Published by Edition HH HH288.sol £16.95. www.editionhh.co.uk

After the publication by Edition HH of the highly successful two volumes of music in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, including a selection of pieces either by or inspired by Handel, Gerald Gifford now offers the first mod≠ern edition of this set of arrangements for keyboard of Handelís six oboe concertos. Arrangements of vocal and chamber music have been a staple part of the keyboard repertoire throughout Europe since the earliest publications and MSS compilations right up to the present day In England there flourished a vogue for arranging the music of Handel, from the publications of William Babel ca1715 right through to the 19th century editions of W. Callcott.

After the initial impetus from Walsh, one of the most prolific publishers of arrangements from Handel was H. Wright, who produced not only a collection of the overtures from his operas and oratorios and several sets of choruses, but also these arrangements of the oboe concertos, possibly published in c.1785. The number of movements in the six concerti varies from two to five. No. four opens with a massive French overture, no, five with a prelude and fugue, which also appear in other keyboard adaptations of Handel. The Gavotte-like movements that conclude concertos nos. 2 and 5 are most attractive.

Two of the allegros are based on fugues from the 1735 Walsh publication of Six Fugues or Voluntarys and other movements are to be found in the set of eight harpsichord suites (1720); comparison with the originals are of the greatest interest. A few movements were supplied with a figured bass in the original print, faithfully reproduced in this modern edition, but filling out of the already well-realised texture is unnecessary in the main.

As we have come to expect from Edition HH, the printing is very clearly laid out. This exemplary edition contains a most informative preface on this outstanding music and its background, and with information for the performer it is essential reading prior to actually playing the music. The singularly comprehensive textual notes covering editorial method and the source used, and a full critical commentary will also assist the performer in questions of readings in many difficult passages. Several facsimile pages are included. Although anonymous, these arrangements were probably made by a performer of standing, and the imaginatively enterprising results display a far more accomplished awareness of the keyboard than some of the other broadly contemporary publications of Handelís pieces. Dr. Giffordís eminently practical suggestions for performance are a bonus. The suggested elaboration of the slow movement in concerto no. 3 is extremely helpful. Similar suggestions for other adagio passages would have been equally useful. Ideally suited to performance on organ, harpsichord and pianoforte these arrangements fully deserve to be heard today.

John Collins
We are grateful to John Collins for permission to reproduce this review.
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