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Sonata for two violins and continuo Op.5 No.4 in G major HWV 399 [1739] / Agrippina condotta a morire HWV 110 [1708]

Georg Frideric Handel (b. 1685 - d. 1759)

Concerto Copenhagen (photo credit: Thomas Nielsen)

Concerto Copenhagen (photo credit: Thomas Nielsen)

Composer
Georg Frideric Handel (b. 1685 - d. 1759)
Composition Year
1739/1708
Work Movements
1. A tempo ordinario - allegro non presto
2. Recitative – Dunque sarà pur vero
3. Aria – Orrida, oscuro
4. Recitative – Ma pria che d’empia morte
5. Aria – Renda cenere il tiranno
6. Recitative – Sì, sì, del gran tiranno
7. Arioso e Recitativo – Come, o Dio!
8. Aria – Se infelice al mondo
9. Recitative – Premo l’ingrato figlio
10. Aria – Su, lacerate il seno
11. Recitative – Ecco a morte
Artists
Concerto Copenhagen (Peter Spissky, Fredrik From, Antina Hugosson [violins], Torbjörn Köhl [viola], Kate Hearne [cello], Mattias Frostenson [bass], Fredrik Bock [archlute, Guitar], Lars-Ulrik Mortensen [harpsichord, Director]), Sebastian Philpott [trumpet], Fredrik From [violin], Alina Ibragimova [violin], Maria Keohane [soprano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

It was very normal for Baroque composers to borrow and steal music, both from themselves and others. Handel was notorious for this, and seems to exceed all others in the number of times he borrowed from himself. As the cantata Agrippina condotta a morire begins with a recitative we had no qualms about borrowing an overture from HWV 399 to introduce this dramatic and fiery cantata. A tempo ordinario - allegro non presto is actually the second movement of HWV 399, and is written in French overture style. Handel had already composed some French suites and operas with French overtures, so it was only logical that he would introduce the form to his chamber music as well.

The Roman Empress Agrippina was no saint, she clawed, seduced and murdered her way to become Emperor Claudius’ fourth wife. She then manipulated him into adopting her son Nero from her first marriage and making him his successor. She then arranged Claudius’ assassination so that Nero became Emperor. However it was not long before Nero became infuriated by his mother’s continued lust for power and sent assassins to execute her. The cantata Agrippina condotta a morire sees the betrayed and furious mother alternately curse and bless and curse again her tyrannical son, most powerfully of all she threatens to return as an implacable Fury to haunt and torment him.

It is a powerful and overwhelming work with a succession of dramatic recitatives describing the tormented mother’s conflicting attitudes of despair, curses, prayers to Jupiter for revenge, repentance after brief revivals of maternal love, resignation and proud defiance. There are 134 lines of text but only four arias with Handel driving forward the dramatic momentum to his protagonist’s inevitable end.

Francis Humphrys, Kate Hearne

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Sonata for two violins and continuo Op.5 No.4 in G major HWV 399 [1739] / Agrippina condotta a morire HWV 110 [1708]

Composer: Georg Frideric Handel (b. 1685 - d. 1759)
Performance date: Saturday 5th July 2014
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Georg Frideric Handel (b. 1685 - d. 1759)
Work Title Sonata for two violins and continuo Op.5 No.4 in G major HWV 399 [1739] / Agrippina condotta a morire HWV 110 [1708]
Composition Year 1739/1708
Work Movements 1. A tempo ordinario - allegro non presto
2. Recitative – Dunque sarà pur vero
3. Aria – Orrida, oscuro
4. Recitative – Ma pria che d’empia morte
5. Aria – Renda cenere il tiranno
6. Recitative – Sì, sì, del gran tiranno
7. Arioso e Recitativo – Come, o Dio!
8. Aria – Se infelice al mondo
9. Recitative – Premo l’ingrato figlio
10. Aria – Su, lacerate il seno
11. Recitative – Ecco a morte
Artist(s) Concerto Copenhagen (Peter Spissky, Fredrik From, Antina Hugosson [violins], Torbjörn Köhl [viola], Kate Hearne [cello], Mattias Frostenson [bass], Fredrik Bock [archlute, Guitar], Lars-Ulrik Mortensen [harpsichord, Director]), Sebastian Philpott [trumpet], Fredrik From [violin], Alina Ibragimova [violin], Maria Keohane [soprano]
Performance Date Saturday 5th July 2014
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Coffee Concert
Duration 00:30:03
Recording Engineer Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Large Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation s-solo, 2vn, tpt, 2vn, va, vc, bn, lu, hpd
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

It was very normal for Baroque composers to borrow and steal music, both from themselves and others. Handel was notorious for this, and seems to exceed all others in the number of times he borrowed from himself. As the cantata Agrippina condotta a morire begins with a recitative we had no qualms about borrowing an overture from HWV 399 to introduce this dramatic and fiery cantata. A tempo ordinario - allegro non presto is actually the second movement of HWV 399, and is written in French overture style. Handel had already composed some French suites and operas with French overtures, so it was only logical that he would introduce the form to his chamber music as well.

The Roman Empress Agrippina was no saint, she clawed, seduced and murdered her way to become Emperor Claudius’ fourth wife. She then manipulated him into adopting her son Nero from her first marriage and making him his successor. She then arranged Claudius’ assassination so that Nero became Emperor. However it was not long before Nero became infuriated by his mother’s continued lust for power and sent assassins to execute her. The cantata Agrippina condotta a morire sees the betrayed and furious mother alternately curse and bless and curse again her tyrannical son, most powerfully of all she threatens to return as an implacable Fury to haunt and torment him.

It is a powerful and overwhelming work with a succession of dramatic recitatives describing the tormented mother’s conflicting attitudes of despair, curses, prayers to Jupiter for revenge, repentance after brief revivals of maternal love, resignation and proud defiance. There are 134 lines of text but only four arias with Handel driving forward the dramatic momentum to his protagonist’s inevitable end.

Francis Humphrys, Kate Hearne