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

Performance date: 05/07/2014

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1739/1708

Duration: 00:30:03

Recording Engineer: Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Large Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: s-solo, 2vn, tpt, 2vn, va, vc, bn, lu, hpd

Artists: Maria Keohane - [soprano]
Alina Ibragimova - [violin]
Sebastian Philpott - [trumpet]
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]) - [baroque ensemble]

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
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.

Humphrys, Kate Hearne