Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Handel's Concerti Grossi Op. 6

Around the mid 1980's there was a series of TV commercials for investment firm E.F. Hutton. In these commercials, there would be two people in crowded surroundings talking about investments. At one point, one of the talkers would say, "Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton. And E.F. Hutton says..." at which point the speaker would look around and notice the crowd had stopped talking and were listening to what he was about to say. The kicker to the ad would be a voice that said, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen."

About that same time, in one of those humor compilations in Reader's Digest, there was an anecdote in which a woman, fond of classical music, had a T-shirt made which said, "My Baroquer is G.F. Handel."

This week I've been listening to some of the concerti grossi of Handel's Op. 6. There are twelve of these in all, although the collections to which I've been listening has only numbers 1,2,6,7, and 10. (A recording for all of them can be found here.)

These works were composed all in a single month by Handel in the year 1739. The concerti include music and dances from all over Europe, including jigs and hornpipes.

Handel is probably best known for his Water Music, and his Music for the Royal Fireworks. There's a good website dedicated to him here, so I won't repeat what they have.

For those not in the know, the "Baroque" period in art is generally considered the time between 1600 and 1750. Art of this time is characterized by an attention to detail. Much of the music composed during this period uses polyphony, which is essentially multiple voices or instruments playing different tunes all at one time, the music written such that, rather than chaotic noise, the various melodies compliment each other. Example composers of this period include Handel, Vivaldi (known for The Four Seasons), and Bach (known for all kinds of stuff).

Handel's music has appeal to the intellect, as does much of Baroque music with its interplay of instruments and use of counterpoint. But there's whimsy to be found in his works, such as the Allegro movement of the No. 7 concerto, which reminds one of a chicken clucking. (You can hear a midi version of the music here.)
It's fun stuff, this Handel.


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