Händel in Dresden
The inclusion of HWV numbers on this disc is perhaps a little misleading because all the music included on this disc are arrangements not prepared by the composer. It is thought that all of these arrangements “found their way to the Dresden court by various means and were especially arranged for use by the Dresden Hofkapelle”, and they are now preserved in the State Library of Saxony.
Although Handel must have visited Dresden at least twice, he is not known to have composed any music for that city. This is hardly surprising given the fact that the city was obscenely rich with musical talent during the early 18th century: the masters Heinichen, Zelenka, Hasse, and the virtuoso violinist Pisendel were all based there. It seems that Pisendel was the probable author of several of these attractive arrangements. For example, the orchestral version of the Trio Sonata in F major (Opus 2 number 4) dates from 1720 – the year after Handel’s visit to recruit Senesino for the Royal Academy of Music – when Pisendel expanded it by doubling the parts and adding several of his own slow movements. Similarly, the opening movement of the Overture from Saul is introduced by Pisendel’s new 10-bar Largo, and five dance movements by an un-named composer append the Overture from Radamisto. Opus 3 number 1 is enlarged by the insertion of a sixteen-bar movement marked Adagio e staccato.
The Batzdorfer Hofkapelle is based in Dresden, where appropriately this recording was made. Although this excellent orchestra may be unfamiliar to most readers, it won acclaim for an impressive series of performances at Bad Lauchstadt during the 2001 Halle Handel Festival. The orchestral members all play extremely well, and the warm spacious sound of this recording belies the fact that its responsive and full string section consisting of only ten players. Their performances are engaging and vivacious, and provide a fascinating insight of how Handel’s music was received by his talented colleague working in another of Europe’s most prestigious musical centres. It is particularly fascinating that Pisendel’s insertions and orchestrations compliment Handel’s original inventions very neatly, and do not in any way detract from their familiar charms. I recommend this imaginative and unusual programme without hesitation.
© David Vickers - March 2003
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