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 first volume of Suites for keyboard was
published in London in 1720 by Handel himself because,
as he wrote in the preface, "surrepticious [sic] and
incorrect Copies of them had got Abroad." Also called
Suites de pieces pour le clavecin or Lessons because
they were used by Handel for didactic purposes, the
suites are sets of stylized dances often preceded by a
prelude and sometimes including a fugue or a set of
variations. The first suite from the first volume is in
A major and consists of four movements: Prelude,
Allemande, Courante, and Gigue. The opening Prelude is
a toccata, a touch piece, with massive rolled chords,
connected scales, and trills. The Allemande, marked
Andantino, is a slight and delightful piece in first
two, then three, then four, and finally five voices.
The Courante is a lively, triple-time dance with
elegant embellishments and a graceful rhythm. The
closing Gigue is a brilliant piece in fast 12/8 with
rushing lines and rambunctious half trills.
Although originally written for Keyboard, I created
this Arrangement of the Suite in A Major (HWV 426 No.
1) for Concert (Pedal) Harp.