Most music lovers have encountered Georg Friedrich
Händel (1685 – 1759) through holiday-time renditions of
the Messiah's "Hallelujah" chorus. And many of them
know and love that oratorio on Christ's life, death,
and resurrection, as well as a few other greatest hits
like the orchestral Water Music and Royal Fireworks
Music, and perhaps Judas Maccabeus or one of the other
English oratorios. Yet his operas, for which he was
widely known in his own time, are the province mainly
of specialists in Baroque music, and the events of his
life, even though they reflected some of the most
important musical issues of the day, have never become
as familiar as the careers of Bach or Mozart. Perhaps
the single word that best describes his life and music
is "cosmopolitan": he was a German composer, trained in
Italy, who spent most of his life in England.
Handel's Suite for keyboard were first published in
Amsterdam in 1719 by Jeanne Roger. But because Handel
received no royalties from Roger, he understandably
decided to publish them himself in London the following
year. Also called Suites de pieces pour le Clavecin,
the suites are most often sets of stylized dances,
occasionally including further additional movements.
The Suite in D minor consists of six movements:
Prelude, Fuga, Allemande, Courante, Air, and Presto.
The opening Prelude, marked Presto, is a fast-touch
piece in common time with rapid scales and huge
arpeggios concluding on a cadence marked Adagio. The
following Fuga, marked Allegro, is a fast and furious
movement with a thrusting chromatic subject. The
Allemande, marked Andantino quasi Allegretto, is a
gently flowing movement with a sighing melody. The
Courante, marked Allegretto, is a gracefully gnarly
movement in triple time. The Air, marked Lento non
troppo, begins with a long, pensive theme with
extravagant embellishments followed by a set of five
variations ranging from the dramatic to the tragic to
the virtuostic. The suite concludes with an enormous
Presto in triple time that alternates between a huge
chordal theme and brilliant passagework.
Although originally written for Keyboard, I created
this Arrangement of the Suite in D Minor (HWV 428 No.
3) for String Trio (Violin, Viola & Cello).