George Frideric Handel
ed. Paul Everett
Quel fior che all'alba ride · HWV 192
The present work, HWV 192, 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 c1711) 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
Like its equally engaging companion, No, di voi non vo'
fidarmi, HWV 189 (also for two sopranos and available in this
series as HH 40), HWV 192 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 - "His yoke is easy" and
"And He shall purify" from the outer movements of HWV 192;
"For unto us a child is born" and "All we like sheep
have gone astray" from HWV 189 - are particularly fascinating
cases of self-borrowing, involving much re-composition
besides re-texting in a different language and rescoring on a
grand scale. Together with a fifth case ("O Death, where is
thy sting?", reworked from the first movement of Se tu non
lasci amore, HWV 193, a duetto dating from the early 1720s),
they 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 Quel fior
ch'all'alba ride, for example, had earlier done service for
two slightly different versions of the trio HWV 200 (a work
probably dating from the period of Handel's residence in
Italy) and the cantata HWV 154 of the late 1730s, which also
shares a theme with the final movement of the present work.
The present edition of HWV 192 is based on the composer's
autograph manuscript that is bound, alongside several of his
other duetti, as folios 36-39 in RM 20.g.9, one of the many
volumes that make up the Royal Music Collection, today
preserved in the British Library, London.2 The score, which
includes after f. 39 a fourth, unnumbered, folio that is void
of text, comprises eight oblong pages each ruled with ten
staves. Above the opening of the music 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 though to the lower part of the sixth
page, f. 39v, where Handel has given a completion date, as
was his habit, in bilingual form: "a Londra a' 1 di Luglio.
1741. / ? July ye 1. 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 first 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)
Quel fior ch’all’alba ride
il sole poi l’uccide
e tomba ha nella sera.
È un fior la vita ancora:
L’occaso a nell’aurora
e perde in un sol dì la primavera.
The flower that smiles in the morning
is then killed by the sun
and is buried in the evening.
Life is like a flower:
Within the dawn it has its sunset
and in only one day it loses its spring.
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 later, on 3 July, he had made an exactly similar inscription upon the manuscript of HWV 189. 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.