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Classical Net Review - Handel - Suites for Solo Keyboard
Buy in United Kingdom Amazon www. Handel appears eventually to have entered into cooperation with the London publisher John Walsh once the Royal Privilege he had secured for the printing of his own works had expired. Thus a radically revised edition of the suites appeared in , and it is this that Scipione Sangiovanni has recorded. Having received no further attention from the mature composer, they retain a sense of the confident if sometimes undisciplined exuberance of his youth.
In recording the suites and chaconnes , Scipione Sangiovanni joins an increasing number of soloists who view the range of tonal possibilities afforded by the modern piano as complementary to the soundworld envisaged by the composer. The keyboard suites by Handel never gained the same popularity as the suites by Bach French, Suites, English Suites, Partitas or the sonatas by his Italian contemporary Domenico Scarlatti. Yes they are very attractive works, Handelian in the synthesis of South German and Italian keyboard characteristics within a very strict French style and structure.
Though never obviously virtuosic they are certainly challenging for the performer and the musical content is definitively that of the Handel of the great oratorios, operas and orchestral music: bold, dramatic and festive or affectionate. The young Italian pianist Scipione Sangiovianni plays the suites on a modern grand piano, in a stylish, natural and utterly musical way, never trying to imitate the harpsichord but letting the music speak for itself.
But when the same topical passages make guest appearances in other genres, as they often do, they acquire a decidedly marked quality. Such transformation may be regarded as thematic , achieved through a process of thematization , when it supports the narrative discourse at the strategic level.
Handel: Keyboard Suites, Vol. 2
Example 1. Example 2. Handel, Sarabande, mm. Example 3. It divides into four phrases of eight bars, and each phrase divides further into two subphrases of four bars. The durational accents on the second beat in each measure are underlined in bars 1 and 3 by dissonant passing tones in the bass; the essentially stepwise movement of the outer voices at the level of the measure, which outlines parallel fifths in bars 1—2 and parallel tenths in bars 3—4, is broken up discreetly on the last quarter note of bars 1—3 by ancillary falling fifths in first inversion or root position.
The only marked features of this subphrase are the upper-voice leaps that introduce the repeated-note figures at the turn of bars 2 and 3, and the surprising disjunction between the groups of parallel fifths and tenths at bar 3; these portend more strongly marked disruption ahead. From time to time it is modified by arpeggiation and by the retention or repetition of essential tones. The outer voices continue to move in parallel tenths, just as they did in bars 3—4, and their movement continues to be broken up in similar fashion by ancillary falling fifths, which now appear exclusively in root position compare the two levels of tonal reduction in Example 3.
But the progression as a whole moves considerably faster than it did before. At the higher level the upper reduction in Example 2 , it continues through bar 6 and comprises three parallel tenths, F 5—D3, E 5—C3, and D5— B 3, each tenth occupying two-thirds of a measure. The tenth F 5—D3 proceeds to the tenth E 5—C3 on the third beat of bar 5; that is why we hear these two tenths as a first and a second hemiolic beat. At the lower level the lower reduction in Example 2 the continuation of the tenth E 5—C3 to the tenth D5— B 3 is upstaged at the downbeat of bar 6 by the entrance of the second hemiola, which begins right on the voice-leading chord intervening between the two tenths and extends the chord for two beats, rather than one.
Evidently, the second hemiola is not supported by the basic pace and appears at a lower level of structure than the first. Rather, it is displaced, from the second to the third beat of bar 6, where D5— B 3 continues the earlier tenths and at the same time supplies the second hemiolic beat of the second hemiola. The second hemiola then concludes with the arrival of a — progression over F on the second beat of bar 7.
Rameau: Keyboard Suites in E minor, G minor and A minor, Angela Hewitt
The upper reduction in Example 2 reveals that above and beyond this hemiolic intensification an additional, cadential acceleration in the basic pace takes place at the downbeat of bar 7, further delaying the restoration of the original one-bar pace to the arrival of the mediant in bar 8. The reduction also demonstrates how the second hemiola, unsupported by the basic pace, all but disappears in the middleground. Durationally, bars 6 and 7 divide into three distinct and equal stretches: A whole note occupies the first two beats of bar 6 and another whole note in the form of the dominant tonicizing the key of B with a — progression overhead takes up the last two beats of bar 7; in between, on the last beat of bar 6 and through the downbeat of bar 7, a sustained movement in quarter notes defines an equally long stretch.
The movement in quarter notes passes through the downbeat of bar 7 without marking it as such. The emergence of the second hemiola from the displacements of bar 6 into the cadential limelight of bar 7 is, like the acceleration occasioned by the first hemiola, a dramatic event; despite the familiarity of its upper voice in bar 7 as a cadential cliche in early Handel, the hemiola is perceived as a marked rather than as an unmarked progression.
Works on This Recording
Indeed, the rapid succession and great density of events in bars 5—8 represents the point at which the Sarabande breaks away from the familiar topics and stylistic norms by which it was identified as a Sarabande in bars 1—4—the point, in other words, where its surface begins to assume a larger thematic identity uniquely its own.
Example 4. Example 5. Although repeated notes, as such, appear only in the bass of bar 9, chordal accents on each second beat are once again highly conspicuous, supported by dissonant intervallic sonorities including prominent augmented fourths in bars 9 and 11, and by a surprising G-major chord in bar 12 that seems to announce the following subphrase prematurely, entering a mere one beat after the key of F major has been locally tonicized.
As the bilevel durational reduction of bars 9—16 in Example 4 demonstrates, the one-bar basic pace prevails throughout the subphrase and describes an underlying descent of a fourth from B 3 to F3 in the bass note the implicit anticipation of F5, which arrives in bar 10, atop the upper voice of bar 9. In all, the contents of bars 9—12 are essentially unmarked, just as were those of bars 1—4.
See my original article, paragraph 10, for more about the parallelisms between bars 1—8 and 9— These contrasts are underlined by the quarter-note rests in bars 13 and 14, which derive quite explicitly from the rests in bars 1—3 but operate in a very different way. In bars 13 and 14, the rests stand for and delay the appearance of appoggiatura-like chords that embellish a two-measure, essentially hemiolic bass arpeggiation of an F-minor chord.
From the perspective of the foreground, then, the first of the two overlapping hemiolas in bars 13—15 is expressed, implicitly, by the rests in bars 13 and 14 see my article, paragraph 10 ; from the perspective of the middleground, it is expressed by the normalized F-minor arpeggiation. Like its counterpart in bars 6—7, the second hemiola is not structurally supported by the basic pace; but unlike its counterpart, it is not cued at the outset by a change in the design, so that one becomes aware of it only when it is already in progress.
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If the hemiolas in bars 5—7 are rhetorically disruptive, those in bars 13—15 can be viewed as reticent, but their impact is equally substantial. The basic pace again accelerates cadentially in bar 15, just as it did in bar 7, and the second hemiola again resides at a level closer to the surface than the first. As the reductions show, it too disappears at the higher level, while the hidden first hemiola stays put. As a locally applied dominant to the C-minor sixth chord that enters in bar 13, the G-major chord resides within the time-span of the inherently measure-long F-major chord of bar 12 see Example 4.
The disruption it occasions is due both to its early contradiction of F through the alteration of B to B and to its unique position within the Sarabande—no other chord links two subphrases in similar fashion elsewhere in the piece. Grave suggested see my article, footnote 4. Not only do bars 17—20 revert to the potentially unmarked rhythms, figurations, and one-bar pace of the typical Sarabande opening; their almost exclusively stepwise design recalls that of the typical Sarabande rather more closely than does the more disjunct contour of bars 1—4.
The effect of this subphrase seems to be that of reculer pour mieux sauter —a lessening of tension in preparation for more developmental events yet to evolve. The resumption of sarabande topics dispenses with the characteristic rests of bars 1—4 and substitutes full chordal texture for the lean three-voice setting of the opening measures, and it shows a sudden temporary acceleration in the basic pace bar 19 to movement in half and whole notes quarter notes and half notes in the durational reduction in Example 6.
Furthermore, it enters half a step higher than did the opening of the Sarabande a move whose significance will become apparent later on.
These changes suggest that the subphrase is more developmental than it seems to be—that its Sarabande topics are in the process of becoming marked and thematized. Example 6. Example 7. Example 8. Its displaced recollection of bars 13—14 discussed below and of bars 1—3 Schulenberg, paragraph 14 , and its cadentially intensified bass movement, which straddles the bar line at the turn of bar 23, allow the subphrase to feign the marked developmental quality for which the preceding subphrase seemed to prepare.
The voice leading here is rather more complex than that, as the reduction in Example 7 discloses, but the effect of an uneventful extension obtains nonetheless. The combination of a steady one-bar pace and a static harmonic setting considerably weakens both the degree of contrast offered by the subphrase and the degree of markedness it assumes. The tonal reduction in Example 7 indicates that the phrase closes with a bass ascent to G, the upper fifth of the subdominant, C.
The tonicization of G minor in bar 24 does not really signal a return to the tonic which is completely regained only at the end of the piece ; it provides a contrapuntal milieu for the startling appearance of the minor dominant at the beginning of the fourth phrase, in bar 25 see Example 7 , a chord that recalls the D-minor sonority of bar 5. Although bars 25—28 again offer the potentially unmarked Sarabande topics of bars 1—4, and bars 29—32 repeat bars 21—24 an instance of a petite reprise , as Schulenberg correctly observes, though one that occurs under altered tonal circumstances , the relationship between the two subphrases now changes entirely.
The Sarabande topics enter over the harmonically unexpected minor dominant, in full chordal texture, and in a still higher register—a step higher than the topics in bars 17ff.