Fitzwilliam Handeliana
Reviewed by John Collins

Fitzwilliam Handeliana : Volume 1 - Lord Richard Fitzwilliam Compositions for Harpsichord and Organ
Edited by Gerald Gifford.
Published by Edition HH. HH236.SOL.

The first volume contains 21 compositions for harpsichord and organ by Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, (1745-1816) the founder of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and, judging from this selection of pieces from MS159, an accomplished composer and player, who had taken lessons with John Keeble in England and Jacques Duphly in Paris, and built up a library of many outstanding prints from Philip Hart’s collection of 1704 onwards. Several of the pieces in the same key were almost certainly intended to be grouped together, both from the forms used, and also from linking thematic motifs such as the use of A-C-D-E in nos. 18 to 20. Also making pleasing suites of pieces are nos 1-2 in G minor, 3-5 in Bb, 6-9 in E minor, 10-11 in D minor, 12-15 in D major, and 16-17 in C major.

Handel’s influence is clearly apparent in many pieces and other traceable influences in these pieces include Roseingrave in the Allegro, no.1, Stanley in the piece for two manuals in E minor and the similar Largo in D minor no. 12, and Keeble in the dotted rhythm Andante followed by a incisively sequential Allegro no.16. Also discernable as an influence is Paradies whose sonatas were published in 1754. These pieces display their composer’s assimilation of a wide range of styles, also, however, with the possibility of their being intentionally derivative as homage.

One charming touch in the Air and variation in D no. 15 is the transference of the melody to the bass in the variation. Also of note are the passages in octaves that conclude several pieces. Of particular interest is no. 21, the overture to Dardanus by Rameau as transcribed by Lord Fitzwilliam, the Allegro requiring much care to ensure that its many repeated semiquavers are heard cleanly and clearly. The concluding Rigaudon makes an attractive end to this collection, many of which would sound just as well on the organ as on the harpsichord.

Several of the pieces, although in two voices only, will need careful and alert fingering and phrasing, a testimony to the success of the studies that Viscount Fitzwilliam undertook. The introduction contains much interesting information about the Viscount’s life and studies, as well as the specification of the small Snetzler organ that he played. Appendix 1 shows Fitzwilliam’s slightly abbreviated setting using a cantus firmus motif utilised by Thomas Morley for his treatment of discant, in which Fitzwilliam follows Keeble’s example of meticulously annotating the contrapuntal devices used. There is a full set of textual notes covering the source description, editorial method and critical commentary which includes one or two alternatives found in the MS.

Fitzwilliam Handeliana Volume 2: George Frideric Handel – unpublished 18th century keyboard arrangements of his music and unfamiliar solo keyboard works of the time composed in Handelian manner.
Editor: Gerald Gifford.
Published by Edition HH, HH 245SOL .

Available through www.editionhh.co.uk

This volume contains arrangements of 9 pieces, either by Handel himself, or else composed in his manner, taken from the MSS collected by Viscount Fitzwilliam and now in the eponymous museum in Cambridge. The first piece, a splendid four-movement work entitled Concerto per il Gravicembalo, is a most rewardingly competent adaptation for keyboard of the Concerto Grosso in C associated with Alexander’s Feast, acquired by Viscount Fitzwilliam in 1767. It is in four movements, a through-composed allegro, a dotted-rhythm largo, a second allegro in imitative style and an andante ma non presto in two parts throughout, the phrasing of the Scotch-snap paired quavers being carefully notated throughout, its gavotte-like style being confirmed by its appearance as the final movement of the Sonata in C, the second piece in this collection, which is headed Gavotte, non troppo presto. This Sonata, here taken from an earlier autograph than the one used published as no. 17 in the third volume of the Bärenreiter Handel edition, was probably conceived originally for a clock-organ, and is in three movements, a vibrant allegro in two parts until the last few bars being followed by another dotted-rhythm larghetto with trills in thirds and a shorter version of the movement that concludes the preceding Concerto, here with only the first pair of quavers notated as a Scotch snap.

The third piece is a short one-movement Sonatina per Cembalo, which is an earlier version of no. 13 in the fourth volume in the Bärenreiter edition. Following this is an arrangement of the Aria: Oh cara spene del mio diletto from Il Floridante, the arranger being unidentified. In da-capo form, this attractive setting contains several old-fashioned ornament signs including sloping lines ie backfalls, wavy lines ie beats and the sloping line preceding the semicircle over two horizontal lines ie forefall and shake. The next piece is a substantial arrangement by Fitzwilliam himself of The Overture and Minuet in Samson, which contains several differences from the printed versions by Walsh (available in a facsimile reprint from Dover) and Wright; his version, although showing improvements on the printed ones, still contains passages that are unwieldy particularly for small hands, but, as seen in volume 1 of this series, the Viscount’s own compositions reveal a formidable technical adroitness, not perhaps a surprise in view of his studies with DuPhly. This splendid Overture opens with a rhythmically varied allegro in binary form, a three bar adagio clearly requiring improvisation leading to a most vigorous allegro with its repetitive drum-beat dactyls; in loosely fugal form the subject covers an ascending octave, a further short adagio concluding this movement which with its repeated-notes semiquavers and passages in thirds offers a considerable challenge. Even the final Minuet has tricky passages in thirds.

The sixth piece, an unidentified and untitled movement in the source, although clearly a sarabande in style, is full of sensuous harmonies, full chords, an Adagio ad lib in the first half, and a further liberal sprinkling of the old-style ornament signs, as is the following arrangement of the Menuet from Tamerlano, probably an earlier version than the one printed by Walsh. There follow arrangements of part of the Minuet and of the March from Saul with its unusual ornamentation, which, however, is skilfully applied, this arrangement being a most effective change to the better-known one. Another unidentified but highly able Sarabande was understandably appreciated by Samuel Wesley, and the collection is rounded off by a short version of the final movement of a sonata in C by the Swedish composer Johan Helmich Roman, that was not included in his MSS collections. In binary form and in two parts throughout the Handelian influence is obvious in its flowing passagework, although the RH syncopations towards the end are less so (the introduction details a modern facsimile). This movement is far more representative of his known admiration for Handel than most of the movements in the 12 MSS suites/sonatas.

Gerald Gifford has provided a most interesting selection of pieces, several of which show the “work-in-progress” snapshot of a particular time; comparison with the published editions where available will be worthwhile. The thorough introduction documents the provenance of the MSS consulted and used for this edition and discusses the compositional process. Three facsimiles are provided. The comprehensive textual notes amplify many points from the introduction and should most certainly be read before playing. This volume includes plenty of material that, individual titles notwithstanding, works just as successfully on the organ as on the harpsichord; several pieces will need a careful approach to fingering and ornamentation to ensure clarity in performance, but most of these pieces make excellent additions to a recital or, indeed, concluding voluntaries. As to be expected from Dr. Gifford the editing is exemplary and the printing clear, in most pieces the practical layout ensures that pageturns are manageable.

© John Collins

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