Handel: Concerti Grossi Op. 3 - de Vriend

Handel: Concerti Grossi Op. 3 - de Vriend

Challenge Classics  SACC 72140

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber

Handel: Concerti Grossi Op. 3 Nos. 1-6

Combattimento Consort Amsterdam
Jan Willem de Vriend

In the first decades of the eighteenth century, London was one of the most important European music centres. There was a rich courtly life as well as a great deal of music-making among the bourgeoisie. Just like Amsterdam, London was a hub of music publishers and instrument builders. London’s musical life had a strong Italian orientation. It was mainly the Italian composers who were successful there, especially Arcangelo Corelli. Although his oeuvre is limited to instrumental music and only has six opus numbers, his influence was considerable. For example, the London-based Italian Francesco Geminiani made orchestral arrangements of Corelli’s violin sonatas opus 5. Geminiani’s Concerti grossi opus 1 and Corelli’s own Concerti grossi opus 6 were published in many different arrangements. Born in Halle, Germany, composer George Frideric Handel started in his hometown as an organist, and settled more or less permanently in London in 1717. By then he already had a career in Italy, where he was very successful as a young composer and kept company with the likes of Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti. Handel saw himself primarily as a composer of vocal music. He had written several operas, which had been performed to much acclaim in Italy and Germany. His first opera, Almira, which has Italian as well as German arias and recitatives, was premiered as early as 1705 in Hamburg. In Italy he learned a great deal about opera from Alessandro Scarlatti, and audiences in that country were wildly enthusiastic about his operas.

In London, Handel built a true opera empire. He was not only the composer and conductor of the performances, but also manager and theatre director. He headed the Royal Academy of Music, an initiative of several wealthy royal opera lovers. The first years, Handel was the big musical attraction of London, and it seemed as if everything he touched turned into gold. If one opera wasn’t quite successful, there would soon be a new one that would be. Handel was also good at getting the best Italian sopranos and castrati to work with his company.

The tide turned around 1730. Some of Handel’s works flopped, including Lotario from 1729, for which he had high expectations. He also faced heavy competition from another opera company. All of a sudden the English had had enough of the long virtuoso arias Handel wrote, and he ended up in a financial crisis.

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