Accompanied by the award-winning Early music ensemble Voices of Music, the American light lyric soprano Amanda Forsythe and the American flautist Emi Ferguson (baroque flute) perform Georg Friedrich Händel’s “Sweet Bird”, a beautiful and well-known aria from the secular oratorio “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.” Recorded during the ensemble’s “As Steals the Morn” concert in March 2019. During filming, birds gathered outside the window and started singing! You can hear them in the video!
Händel’s “Sweet Bird”
Sweet Bird is a beautiful and well-known aria from George Frideric Handel’s secular oratorio “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.” The oratorio, first performed in 1740, is based on John Milton’s poems “L’Allegro” (The Cheerful Man) and “Il Penseroso” (The Thoughtful Man), and it also incorporates an additional third part written by Charles Jennens titled “Il Moderato” (The Moderate Man).
“Sweet Bird” is from the “L’Allegro” section and showcases Handel’s brilliant ability to depict nature and emotion in music. The aria is written for a soprano voice and is accompanied by a solo recorder or transverse flute, which imitates the song of the bird, hence the title “Sweet Bird.”
The aria’s lyrics express the joys of listening to the melodious song of a bird, and both the vocal and instrumental parts beautifully intertwine to represent the conversation between a human voice and the bird’s song.
Performers of this piece often need great technical skill and control, especially in the vocal ornamentations and the flute/recorder obbligato part, to convey the delicate and intricate nature of a bird’s song.
When performed with sensitivity, “Sweet Bird” stands as a testament to Handel’s genius in setting pastoral scenes to music and is a delight to hear.
Händel’s “Sweet Bird” lyrics
Sweet bird, that shun’st the noise of folly,
Most musical, most melancholy!
Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among,
I woo to hear thy even-song.
Or, missing thee, I walk unseen,
On the dry smooth-shaven green,
To behold the wand’ring moon
Riding near her highest noon.
- Georg Friedrich Händel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato on Wikipedia
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