Handel: German Arias & Trio Sonatas

Charlston, T. and Solomon, A. (2017) Handel: German Arias & Trio Sonatas. [Audio]

Abstract

Both in his own time and after his death, George Frideric Handel’s outstanding reputation as a composer has rested mainly on the grandly stirring gestures of his most public works: the operas and oratorios he composed for the theatres of Georgian London. Nevertheless, Handel’s oeuvre includes a substantial body of chamber music, including some of the most satisfying and beautiful secular music of the period. Handel’s considerable collection of vocal works reveals a preference for texts in Italian and English, with very few works in his native German. Indeed Handel virtually abandoned German texts after 1708, with two notable exceptions: a Passion setting and a set of nine songs, both on texts by his friend, the enlightened poet and town Councillor Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680- 1747). Not only did the two men share a Hamburg connection, but Brockes had studied at the University of Halle between 1702 and 1704, coinciding with Handel’s registered period of study there. Brockes held weekly concerts in his apartment at Halle, and perhaps these were the catalyst for his cultivating a lasting friendship with Handel. Around 1716 Handel composed a setting of Brockes’s Passion oratorio Der fu?r die Su?nde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus. In 1721, Brockes’s collection of poems Irdisches Vergnu?gen in Gott, bestehend in Physicalisch- und Moralischen Gedichten was published at Hamburg. They follow the main theme of God’s abundant goodness as evident from the joy and beauty to be found in nature. Arranged into ariosos, arias, duets, and with introductory or linking texts ideal for recitative, Brockes clearly wished to encourage musical settings of his poetry. The publication was popular, and successively revised and enlarged.

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