Cecilia, volgi una sguardo HWV 89

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

Performance date: 07/07/2012

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1736

Duration: 00:27:54

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Small Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: T-solo, S-solo, 2vn, va, vc, thb, hpd

Artists: Ruby Hughes - [mezzo-soprano]
Robin Tritschler - [tenor]
Arte dei Suonatori (Aureliusz Golinski, Ewa Golinska [violins], Anna Nowak [viola], Tomasz Pokrzywinski [cello], Dohyo Sol [theorbo], Joanna Boslak-Gorniok [harpsichord]) - [baroque ensemble]

We owe this cantata to Handel’s setting of Dryden’s Ode Alexander’s Feast, which was
too short to make a full evening’s music. Cecilia,
volgi una sguardo 
was written
to be performed between the two parts of the Ode. The presence of an Italian cantata
in the middle of Dryden’s Alexander’s
may seem odd but two of
his singers, Anna Strada and Carlo Arrigoni, were Italian. Arrigoni was also a
lutenist, but was unable to sing in English, so it made sense to give him and
Strada a work in their native language.

Cecilia vogli originated in another incomplete
Cecilian work, Splenda l’alba
in oriente,
 dating from
around 1711. Handel borrowed some of this work’s text and music to create the
new work. Cecilia vogli began as two arias along with their
recitatives for the tenor, followed by a recitative for the soprano and the
final duet. This, however, could hardly be satisfactory for Handel’s leading
soprano and he created the ariaSei cara, sei bella and an extra recitative for her.
Strada was the leading lady in Handel’s company from 1729-1737. She performed
in at least 24 operas under his direction and also sang in English in his
oratorio performances. Doubtless she knew how to extract the music she wanted
from the impresario-composer.

The first aria is
modestly accompanied with continuo alone, but tests the tenor voice with a
highly elaborate vocal line. His next aria has a lively triple-time rhythm
accompanied by the strings. Sei
cara, sei bella, 
soprano aria, is quite special. The main section opens with the strings in full
flight, but tempo slows for Sei
The vocal line is
dominated by long, florid runs. The mysterious central sectionUn puro ardor,
un bel seren
 undergoes a
remarkable change of mood, introducing ravishing intensity to the music perhaps
echoing the rapt heaven-ward gazing of St Cecilia found in many Renaissance

The cantata closes
with the famous duet Tra
amplessi innocenti, 
jaunty rhythms ends this cantata and this Festival’s Baroque series in a mood
of joyful celebration.