Camerata Oresund, Peter Spissky [violin, director]
George Frideric Handel [1685-1759]
Concerto grosso in G minor Op. 6/6 HWV 324 
1. Larghetto e affettuoso
2. A tempo giusto
3. Musette - Larghetto
The Concerti Grossi Op.6, also called the Twelve Grand Concertos is considered one of the finest examples of baroque concerti grossi. We can see the influence of Handel’s time in Italy in the form, especially of Corelli and the use of the slow-fast-slow-fast scheme of movements, but also of the strong contrapuntal texture, which is so significant a part of Handel’s style. In 1737, after a particularly poor opera season, Handel had a mental and physical breakdown. He went to Aachen in Germany to recover, and when he returned to London he abandoned opera in favour of oratorios. However, he was not sure of the reception these new composition would have in London and wrote twelve dashing Concerti as supporting pieces to attract audiences.
Concerti grossi set a small ensemble of solo instruments against a larger orchestra, usually a string orchestra. The solo parts are not markedly different from the tuttis, often echoing or playing in unison. Concerto No.6 is a rarity, in being one of only three of the concerti to give strong decorative figures to the solo violin. In many ways No.6 exemplifies the range of Handel’s orchestral writing, full of invention and scope for the instruments.
The first movement is full-bodied and textured. The soli-tutti are engaged in a dialogue typical of the concerti, borrowing from and echoing each other. The melodies descend, becoming subdued and mournful, fading away before second movement enters a tempo giusto, lively and brisk, with strong contrapuntal sequences.
The famous Musette is the longest movement and changes to the key of E flat and the tempo to Larghetto. It describes an expansive pastoral landscape in which the listener feels the wholesome dignity of the elegiac. The opening strains are a dialogue between the higher and lower registers. The stately strains of the dialogue gradually become livelier before a sudden outburst of quick passages that equally suddenly lead back into the dignified demeanour of the earlier melodies.
The Musette is followed by a short Allegro section in the style of Vivaldi, with a virtuoso violin solo alternating with ritornello passages. This section cannot but conjure the ballroom scene of a period drama, in which the orderly dances are augmented by brief segments of drama. The final movement is a short minuet-like Allegro in conventional binary dance form with a three part homophonic texture, which sounds spare compared to the rich textures of the previous movement. The descending theme with its lengthened penultimate note seems to draw the listener into the melody snatches, in the expectation of expansion, but the Allegro is short and with the acumen of a true performing artist, Handel ends the concerto, just as we have settled ourselves down for more.