Recorded on 09/02/2008, uploaded on 01/10/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Handel composed at least twenty-five suites for the
harpsichord during his career published in two volumes. The first, appearing in
1720, was issued after a Dutch publisher had published the same suites without
Handel's consent. The second volume, published in 1733, is likely the
additional suites Handel had promised in the preface to 1720 volume.
When compared to the suites of his great contemporary, J.S.
Bach, Handel's suites are less consistent in adhering to the basic framework of
the dance suite (allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue). Several include
some type of variation movement, usually an air with variations or in a few
cases a chaconne. In fact, two of the suites of the second volume, HWV 435 and
HWV 442 (both in G major) are actually single movement chaconnes labeled as
suites. In further comparing the suites of Handel and Bach, it is apparent that
Handel's suites also lack the high degree of symmetry and craftsmanship as
those of Bach. Possibly this was a result of their respective directions in
music—Bach had the opportunity to perfect a highly contrapuntal style of
keyboard writing while employed at the court of Weimar, whereas Handel, though
a keyboard virtuoso in his own right, turned his focus more to the composition
of operas and oratorios. In any case, Handel's keyboard suites have never
garnered the same attentions as those by Bach.
The Chaconne in G major comes from the third suite in D
minor of volume two. It is based on the prototypical ground bass of the Baroque
period—beginning with a stepwise descent from tonic to dominant. The opening
statement of the bass is majestic with full chords and brilliant figurations
and ornamentation. The first eight variations maintain a consistent pattern. An
eighth note countermelody appears in the right hand in the first variation,
while in the second, the bass is embellished in like rhythm. In the third and
fourth variations, the same procedure is followe but the notes are quickened to
triplets. The fifth and sixth, and the seventh and eighth then further increase
the rhythmical activity with sixteenth notes. The eighth variations comes to a
pause on the tonic before the tempo slows to an adagio and a key change into the tonic minor for the ninth and succeeding
variations. Variations nine through sixteen remain in the minor key and are
markedly different in character, though Handel (or the publisher) neglects to
indicate the return of the original tempo. The tonic key of G major returns in
variation seventeen. Brilliant sixteenth note runs and arpeggios build momentum
through the final variations. Joseph DuBose
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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