Händel Concerto grosso in E minor, Op. 6 no. 3 - HWV 321

HWV321 The Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, or Twelve Grand Concertos, HWV 319–330, are 12 concerti grossi by George Frideric Handel for a concertino trio of two violins and violoncello and a ripieno four-part string orchestra with harpsichord continuo. First published by subscription in London by John Walsh in 1739, in the second edition of 1741 they became Handel's Opus 6. They were written to be played during performances of Handel's oratorios and odes. Handel incorporated in the movements the full range of his compositional styles, including trio sonatas, operatic arias, French overtures, Italian sinfonias, airs, fugues, themes and variations and a variety of dances. The concertos were largely composed of new material: they are amongst the finest examples in the genre of baroque concerto grosso. In the opening larghetto in E minor the full orchestra three times plays the ritornello, a sarabande of serious gravity. The profoundly tragic mood continues in the following andante, one of Handel's most personal statements. The movement is a fugue on a striking atonal four-note theme, B-G-D sharp-C. The suspensions and inner parts recall the contrapuntal writing of Bach. The third movement is an allegro. Of all the Op.6, it comes the closest to Vivaldi's concerto writing, with its stern opening unison ritornello; however, despite a clear difference in texture between the solo violin sections and the orchestral tuttis, Handel breaks from the model by sharing material between both groups. Although the fourth movement in G is described as a polonaise, it has very few features in common with this popular eighteenth century dance form. The lower strings simulate a drone, creating a pastoral mood, but the dance-like writing for upper strings is more courtly than rustic. The final short allegro, ma non troppo brings the concerto back to E minor and a more serious mood, with chromaticism and unexpected key changes.
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