The Handel Institute
The Handel Institute

An edition of:

Gloria in Excelsis Deo

An edition of the work is available from King's Music at a price of £7.50 score, £2.50 each violin I, violin III and cello part, excluding postage. 

For more information on obtaining the edition, please contact:

King's Music
Redcroft, Bank's End,
Wyton, Huntingdon, Cambs,
PE28 2AA
tel: +44 (0)1480 52076
fax: +44 (0)1480 450821

Draft Introduction to the Edition

On 12 March 2001 The Times (London), with an exaggeration more appropriate to one of our less reputable papers, announced on one of its news pages (not buried amid its Arts section) Handel scholar finds the new 'Messiah'; more modestly, two days later it became Glory in the Gloria. In fact, the work was not quite as unknown as the publicity suggested. It is included in the commercially-available complete microfilm of the MSS in the Royal Academy library issued by Harvester Microform/Research Publications a decade or so ago and available in the world's major music libraries (though apparently no British libraries bought a set). The opening violin and vocal themes were published in a letter in Early Music (vol. 11, 1983, p.295) by the countertenor Nicholas Clapton, who was working at the time for RISM; he described it as 'a highly dubious attribution to Handel by R. J. S. Stevens'. Clapton had been working on the submission of UK Music MSS to the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM), so the information was generally available to scholars.

I was somewhat embarrassed by the revelation of this unknown Handel work since I had catalogued the RAM's MSS in the late 1960s. I allocated the MSS their current numbers and the catalogue card that prefaces the MS on the Research Publications film is the one I typed then. At the time, although I was a Handel enthusiast, I did not have the professional interest that I later acquired. The Gloria was an oddity in its position in the MS and bore no ascription, so the only personal action I took was to note in my copy of Gerald Abraham's Handel: a Symposium (whose list of works I used as a peg for miscellaneous comments) 'doubtful Gloria RAM MS 139 & 288'. When the announcement of the discovery was made, I wrote a few paragraphs in Early Music Review (39, April 2001) and intended to do no more about it. But a singer asked me if I could provide an edition, so I embarked on it before realising that Bärenreiter were intending to produce theirs with a greater speed than is normal with publications of the Halle Händel-Ausgabe.

The Gloria survives in RAM MS 139, ff. 111-122. The foliation is modern (in my hand, in fact), and has no implication that the Gloria was of the same origin as the rest of the MS, which is bound together from several discrete items. The rest of the MS contains opera arias, beginning with substantial groups from Atalanta (1736) & Alcina (1735); further on, there are items dating from 1737. These are mostly headed with the name of the opera and original singer, as was normal in operatic publications, suggesting that perhaps they were copied from the early prints rather than derived from Handel's scriptorium. The Gloria is in a different hand (separately paginated [1] to 23) and seems to be independent of the arias. There is also a set of parts (MS 288) with two copies each of violino primo, violino secondo and violoncello. These were probably copied from the score; they have some mistakes and contribute nothing to the information presented by it. There is nowhere in either MS any ascription to Handel (or to anyone else). But the inclusion in MS 139, a volume otherwise devoted to Handel, is particularly suggestive in view of the original owner of the MS.

Nearly all of the early MSS in the RAM come from the library of R. J. S. Stevens (1757-1837), now remembered (if at all) for his glee Ye spotted snakes. His MSS have his signature, mostly (as far as I can remember) with the date 1817. A considerable number of these were previously owned by William Savage (c.1720-89), who had sung for Handel as a boy treble and as a bass. My recollection of the collection is that the Savage MSS were library volumes rather than working copies of music that he would have sung from; his Messiah score, for instance, is interesting for being an early version, but has no individual signs of use or ownership; when he sang in the first London performance, he probably used a voice part (such as survives at the Foundling Hospital from later performances). There is no reason to assume that he copied the Gloria himself. It is, however, odd that a copy should survive in the library of someone from Handel's circle without the composer himself having a copy, since he seems to have kept firm control over his MSS.

I suspect that I didn't take the possibility of an attribution to Handel seriously when I catalogued the work because I did not immediately recognise any cross-relationship with music known to be by him. Handel was such a self-borrower, that any newly-discovered work that does not pass that test is immediately suspect. That in itself, however, is no guarantee of authenticity, since throughout his career Handel borrowed liberally from other composers. Confirmation of authenticity will not come until experts in Handel's borrowings have produced and studied a full list of similarities. One suspicious feature is the full figuring of the bass. That is not normal in Handel's autographs, so suggests that the scribe of MS 139 was not working from Handel's own score or one derived directly from it. But the assumption that the work is by Handel seems is confirmed by its quality and style.

The work, assuming it is by Handel, seems most likely to have been written in Rome, although the possibility of it dating from his early years at Hamburg is not impossible — or it might have been written in London, like Silete venti. The score itself does not require more than one instrument per part — the tutti in 3.31 need only be to warn the player that his exposed solo is over; the contrary evidence of the doubled parts is several decades later. It is also significant that none of the movements is scored for violini unisoni, which one would expect in at least one if the work were orchestral. Roman pitch was about a tone lower than A=440 (and a semitone below convention 'baroque pitch'), so the tessitura (and top note of B flat) would have been less high than it looks.

The MS is carefully copied with very few mistakes. The edition retains the original inconsistent use of accidentals, but we have modernised beaming: the scribe generally beams quavers in fours and three quavers following a quaver rest as a single group. Dynamics notated as Pia. are changed to p, Pianiss.o to pp. There are no indications to cancel these dynamics; where this happens should be as obvious to players now as then, so have not been added editorially. Abbreviations such as Adago have been expanded without comment. All titles and the indication of the composer at the head of the score are editorial. Light punctuation has been added to the text.

The work was rediscovered by Dr. Hans Joachim Marx. A recording was made by Emma Kirkby on 3 May 2001 with the Royal Academy of Music Baroque Orchestra directed by Laurence Cummings for release on 4 June by BIS. The official premiere performance is at the Göttingen Festival on 3 June 2001. These are from the Bärenreiter edition. The first performance of this edition (and first modern public performance of the work) was on 18 May 2001 at the Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre, Huntingdon, by Patrizia Kwella and Fiori Musicali.

© Clifford Bartlett, May 2001

Unless explicitly specified otherwise, this page and all other pages at this site are Copyright © 2015 by David Vickers and Matthew Gardner credits

Last updated: August 30, 2020  · Site design: Duncan Fielden, Matthew Gardner and David Vickers