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George Frideric Handel


ed. Paul Everett

No, di voi non vo' fidarmi · HWV 189

Two sopranos

The present work, HWV 189, a duetto da camera in the Italian tradition established late in the seventeenth century by Alessandro Scarlatti, Agostino Steffani and others, is one of a small number of remarkable examples of the genre composed by George Frideric Handel in the 1740s. These late works demonstrate (even more than the numerous duetti he had written while in Italy in 1706–10 and in Hanover c.1711) his great skill in fashioning counterpoint that carries its considerable technical complexity lightly, with a disarmingly easy grace. Representing this type of virtuosic vocal chamber music in its ideal, most exquisite state, they are, in the words of Donald Burrows, “musicians’ music par excellence”.(1)
Like its equally engaging companion, Quel fior che all’alba ride, HWV 192 (also for two sopranos and available in this series as HH 41), HWV 189 presents music that today is familiar to us from four-part choruses in the celebrated oratorio Messiah. These two duetti are in fact the original versions of the pieces in question: they were completed, in early July 1741, at around the time when Handel is believed to have received the libretto for Messiah, some seven weeks before he began, on 22 August, to set it to music. The choruses that were adapted from them – “For unto us a child is born” and “All we like sheep have gone astray” from the outer movements of HWV 189; “His yoke is easy” and “And He shall purify” from HWV 192 – are particularly fascinating cases of self- borrowing, involving much re-composition besides re-texting in a different language and rescoring on a grand scale. Moreover, one can hear, in the motif for “So per prova” in the present duet’s Wnale, the germ of the famous “Hallelujah” chorus. Together with a further case (“O Death, where is thy sting?”, derived from the Wrst movement of Se tu non lasci amore, HWVv 193, a duetto dating from the early 1720s), these adaptions exemplify a compositional practice regularly employed by Handel as both a stimulus to his creativity and the means of recycling some of his best musical ideas. On occasion he would recycle a literary text alone. The words of No, di voi non vo’ fidarmi, for example, were re-set in late 1742 as the duetto for soprano and alto hwv 190, a piece that otherwise bears no resemblance to the present work.
Although it is probable that HWV 189 and HWV 192 were composed with particular performances in mind, neither the occasions nor the original performers have yet been identified. The suggestion has been advanced, however, that Handel perhaps supplied them for certain singers associated with a forthcoming opera production, including a castrato and a female soprano named, respectively, Monticelli and Visconti.(2)
The present edition of hwv 189 is based on the composer’s autograph manuscript that is bound, alongside several of his other duetti, as folios 39–42 in R.M.20.g.9, one of the many volumes that make up the Royal Music Collection, today preserved in the British Library, London.Ë At the head of the score, which comprises eight oblong pages each ruled with ten staves, appear the simplest of identifying inscriptions: “Duetto” (in the upper left corner) and the attribution “di G. F. Handel” (upper right). The music itself runs through to the end of the eighth page, f. 42v, where it is terminated with the word “Fine”. Underneath, in the lower right corner of the page, Handel has given a completion date, as was his habit, in bilingual form: “a Londra a’ 3 di Luglio. 1741. / ºJuly ye 3. 1741.”(3)
This source, without doubt a composition draft, is a particularly fascinating one to study for it conveys much about the process of composition. In addition to a general untidiness that betrays the composer’s haste to commit ideas to paper, we find many instances of readings that he emended immediately, typically before the ink was dry and before continuing the music any further than a bar or two: readings that show the rejection of his Wrst thoughts and sometimes even of his second thoughts. A full analysis of these details, and of what they tell us about the genesis of the music and of Handel’s methods, is beyond the scope of this volume. The present edition nevertheless provides, in List B of the Textual Notes (below), all the discernible data on which such an analysis would be based.
The eighteenth-century Italian text, which in Handel’s manuscript lacks punctuation and includes occasional faults (listed in the Textual Notes), has been normalized with appropriate punctuation and capitalization. Its edited form is shown below, with an English translation:(5)

No, di voi non vo’ fidarmi,
cieco Amor, crudel Beltà.
Troppo siete menzognere,
lusinghiere Deità.

Altra volta incatenarmi
già poteste il fido cor.
So per prova i vostri inganni,
due tiranni siete ogn’or.

No, I do not want to trust you,
blind Love, cruel Beauty.
You lie too much,
like blandishing gods.

Once before you managed
to trap my trusting heart.
I know from experience your lies,
you will always be two tyrants.

Paul Everett
Cork, December 2002

1 Donald Burrows, Handel (Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York, 1994), p. 328. Recent writings that focus on Handel’s duetti include J. Merrill Knapp, “Zu Händels italienischen Duetten” and Alfred Mann, “Das Kammerduett in englischen Schaffen Händels”, in Göttinger Händel-Beiträge, 1 (1984), pp. 51–58 and 59–69, respectively. 2 Burrows, Handel, cit., p. 259 Händels”, in Göttinger Händel-Beiträge, 1 (1984), pp. 51–58 and 59–69, respectively. 3 The contents of R.M.20.g.9, including such details as their various music-papers, are listed in Donald Burrows and Martha J. Ronish, A Catalogue of Handel’s Musical Autographs (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994), pp. 185–6. Händels”, in Göttinger Händel-Beiträge, 1 (1984), pp. 51–58 and 59–69, respectively. 4 Two days earlier, on 1 July, he had made an exactly similar inscription upon the manuscript of hwv 192. Händels”, in Göttinger Händel-Beiträge, 1 (1984), pp. 51–58 and 59–69, respectively. 5 I am indebted to Dr Annelisa Evans for her advice on the Italian text and its translation.