Amsterdam-based instrumental ensemble Combattimento Consort plays Handel and Purcell. Recorded at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on October 28, 2012.
1. Handel: Concerto Grosso Op. 6 No. 7 HWV325
The Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, or Twelve Grand Concertos, HWV 319-330, are 12 concerti grossi by George Frideric Handel for a concertino trio of two violins and violoncello and a ripieno four-part string orchestra with harpsichord continuo. First published by subscription in London by John Walsh in 1739, in the second edition of 1741 they became Handel’s Opus 6.
The seventh concerto is the only one for full orchestra: it has no solo episodes and all the movements are brief.
The first movement is a largo, ten bars long, which like an overture leads into the allegro fugue on a single note, that only a composer of Handel’s stature would have dared to attempt. The theme of the fugue consists of the same note for three bars (two minims, four crotchets, eight quavers) followed by a bar of quaver figures, which with slight variants are used as thematic material for the entire movement, a work relying primarily on rhythm.
The central expressive largo in G minor and 3/4 time, reminiscent of the style of Bach, is harmonically complex, with a chromatic theme and closely woven four-part writing.
The two final movements are a steady andante with recurring ritornellos and a lively hornpipe replete with unexpected syncopation.
2. Handel: Concerto Grosso in G major, Op. 3, No. 3 – HWV 314
The Concerti Grossi, Op. 3, HWV 312-317, are six concerti grossi by George Frideric Handel compiled into a set and published by John Walsh in 1734. Musicologists now agree that Handel had no initial knowledge of publishing. Instead, Walsh, seeking to take advantage of the commercial success of Corelli’s Opus 6 Concerti Grossi, simply combined several of Handel’s already existing works and grouped them into six “concertos”.
The fourth concerto is the only piece in the opus that follows a four-movement framework. Although the layout of this work does not reflect the typical concerto grosso as the music was pulled straight from the overture to the 1715 opera Amadigi di Gaula, the piece uniquely displays many aspects of Handel’s concerto grosso style. The piece is scored for two oboes, one bassoon, strings, and continuo.
The four movements are:
Walsh also published a ‘No. 4b’ concerto erroneously under the name of Handel but it was withdrawn a few months later, possibly at Handel’s request.
John Walsh was the name of a father and son, two printers and publishers of music, active in London from the late 17th Century, and through the first half of the 18th Century. They published much important Baroque music, including works by William Babell and Handel.
3. Handel: Ballet Music from Alcina (HWV 34)
Alcina (HWV 34) is an opera seria by George Frideric Handel. Handel used the libretto of L’isola di Alcina, an opera that was set in 1728 in Rome by Riccardo Broschi, which he acquired the year after during his travels in Italy.
Partly altered for better conformity, the story was originally taken from Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso (like those of the Handel operas Orlando and Ariodante), an epic poem set in the time of Charlemagne’s wars against Islam. The opera contains several musical sequences with opportunities for dance: these were composed for dancer Marie Sallé (1707-1756, a French dancer and choreographer in the 18th century known for her expressive, dramatic performances).
- Fantasia upon One Note, Z.745
- In Nomine, Z 747
- Chacony, Z 730
7. Handel: Concerto Grosso in D major, Op. 3 No. 6 – HWV 317
The sixth and final concerto of the Concerti Grossi, Op. 3 has just two movements, the Vivace, whose music is extracted from the 1723 opera Ottone, and the Allegro, which is also Handel’s first published organ concerto, is taken from the overture to the 1712 opera Il pastor fido. The piece is scored for two oboes, one bassoon, strings, and continuo.
8. Handel: Concerto Grosso Op .6 No. 5 HWV323 (finale)
The fifth grand concerto in the brilliant key of D major is an energetic concerto in six movements. It incorporates in its first, second, and sixth movements reworked versions of the three-movement overture to Handel’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day HWV 76 (Larghetto, e staccato – allegro – minuet), composed in 1739 immediately prior to the Op.6 concerti grossi and freely using Gottlieb Muffat’s Componimenti musicali (1739) for much of its thematic material.
The minuet was added later to the concerto grosso, perhaps for balance: it is not present in the original manuscript; the rejected trio from the overture was reworked at the same time for Op.6 No.3.
The final menuet, marked un poco larghetto, is a more direct reworking of the minuet in the overture to the Ode. The first statement of the theme is melodically pruned down so that the quaver figure in the response gives the impression of a variation. Handel added this warm-hearted and solid movement at a later stage, perhaps because it provided a more effective way to end the concerto than the brilliant fifth movement.
Founded in 1982 by violinist Jan Willem de Vriend, the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam (= CCA) has developed into a close-knit ensemble specializing in music between 1600 and 1800. In view of the repertoire, concerts comprising small and medium-sized groups of instruments are given, but each year, the ensemble also programs oratorios and operas.
The wish not to focus solely on the standard repertoire has resulted in many exciting programs featuring remarkable and little-known works, some of which are only available in the manuscript. The performance of these compositions in conjunction with more familiar works has proved to be refreshing and inspiring to listeners and performers alike.
The CCA generally performs on instruments built in the 19th century. This offers great advantages. For example, the ensemble often performs in large concert halls in relatively small instrumental groups. If the ensemble were to choose to work exclusively with original instruments, this would impose a variety of location and time limitations on the programming.
After all, not only did tuning differ greatly in the various European cities but also the instruments on hand and even the way these instruments were played. After considering all of these advantages and disadvantages as a whole, the Combattimento Consort has chosen to continue using 19th-century instruments – but under certain conditions.
Apart from numerous concerts in the Netherlands the CCA also appeared in various European countries as well as Japan, the USA, and South America. In the Netherlands, the ensemble often gives performances in the larger concert halls but also in more intimate spaces and for private gatherings.
In the 2002 season the group performed in Germany, England, and Italy. These successful tours have always been attracting attention in national and international media.
In addition to solo performances by members of the ensemble, the CCA has also worked with great performers such as Barbara Bonney, Andreas Scholl, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Hieke Meppelink, Thomas Zehetmair, Ronald Brautigam, and Sabine Meyer, as well as joining forces with Collegium Vocale Gent and other groups. In addition to renowned soloists, the CCA places great importance on working with young, talented singers.
The CCA has made numerous CD recordings, the last two of which appeared on the early music label, Bona Nova. Several recordings have won the highest praise from the Dutch music magazine Luister. Their CD recordings include the operas La Resurrezione by G.F. Handel and Der Stein der Weisen.
The last one had its premiere in the Wielki Theatre in Lodz (Poland; 2003), and after that, it toured in The Netherlands and Flanders. In 2004 the CCA toured through Central Europe and The Netherlands with G.F. Handel’s opera Agrippina, the largest cultural project within the Netherlands Presidency of the European Union. In addition, the CCA can be heard regularly as part of radio and television broadcasts.
The Combattimento Consort Amsterdam is sponsored by Bouwfonds. It has its own foundation of friends, which enables the ensemble to continue funding special productions.
But above all, the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam is a closely-knit group of musicians (consort), who dare to take on the battle (combattimento) of voice against voice. A Baroque ensemble that takes advantage of oppositions, thereby collectively creating something beautiful, in which contrasts lead to an intensely pleasurable experience. An ensemble that bridges the gap between players and audience with its fresh musical individuality.
- Concerti grossi, Op. 6 (Handel) on Wikipedia
- Concerti Grossi, Op. 3 (Handel) on Wikipedia
- Alcina on Wikipedia
- Combattimento Consort Amsterdam (Instrumental Ensemble) on Bach-cantatas.com
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