Handel pp 254-270 | Cite as

The Origins of Handel’s Opus 3: A Historical Review

  • Hans Joachim Marx


Musicologists have not paid sufficient attention to the collection of Handel’s concertos known as his Opus 3. The stylistic diversity of the music, its obscure origins and the circumstances of its publication have perhaps inhibited scholarly investigation and led to false conclusions. Above all, there has been a failure to appreciate that the story of the publication of the music by John Walsh the elder (1665/6–1736) as Handel’s ‘Opera Terza’ early in 1734 is also the story of the origin of the collection as a whole and of two of the six concertos which it contains.


Longe Form British Library Stylistic Diversity Instrumental Music Obscure Origin 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    see Denis Arnold: ‘The Corellian Cult in England’, Nuovi studi corelliani: 2° congresso internazionale: Fusignano 1974, 81–8; andGoogle Scholar
  2. Owain Edwards: ‘The Response to Corelli’s Music in Eighteenth-Century England’, SMN, ii (1976), 51–96Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Regarding the origin and history of Geminiani’s arrangements, see Hans Joachim Marx: Die Uberlieferung der Werke Arcangelo Corellis: Catalogue raisonné (Cologne, 1980), 53–5 and 315–16Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    see Robert Hernried: preface to Eulenburg miniature score of Geminiani’s op.3 (Leipzig and Vienna, 1935), p. vGoogle Scholar
  5. 4.
    Facsimiles of the title-pages of the first two editions are shown in Frederick Hudson: HHA, IV/11: Sechs Concerti Grossi Opus 3: Kritischer Bericht (Kassel, 1963), 14, 16. The words ‘generally called his Oboe Concertos’ in the first facsimile are a handwritten annotation.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    William C. Smith and Charles Humphries: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Early Editions (London, 1960), 243Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Hudson, pp. 34–8Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Regarding the authenticity of the concerto, see Hudson, pp. 12–13 and 43, and Hans F. Redlich: ‘A New “Oboe Concerto” by Handel’, MT xcvii (1956), 409. Despite its dubious authorship the concerto has been recorded as Handel’s by several instrumental groups, beginning in 1959 with the Cappella Coloniensis under August Wenzinger (Archiv APM 14139–40); a more recent recording is that by the Concentus Musicus under Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Teldec 6.35545), issued in 1981.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Hudson, pp. 38–43Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Hudson, pp. 24–33; Donald Burrows: Handel and the English Chapel Royal during the reigns of Queen Anne and King George I (diss., Open U., 1981), ii, 185; idem: Walsh’s Editions of Handel’s Opera 1–5: the texts and their sources’, Music in Eighteenth-Century England: Essays in Memory of Charles Cudworth, ed. C. Hogwood and R. Luckett (Cambridge, 1983), 79–102; Terence Best, ed.: HHA IV/15, Sechs einzeln überlieferte Instrumentalwerke (Kassel and Leipzig, 1979)Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Concerto no.1 occupies ff.1–9v, Concerto no.2 ff.10–19. Some readings of the manuscript differ from those of the first printed edition: time signature of 1/iii; indications of tutti/solo (1/i, ii); dynamics (1/ii, iii); instrumental indications (1/ii, iii — where the copyist has written ‘Hautboy Contra:r’ for ‘Haut Contre’ — and 2/ii). There are also copyist’s errors in 1/i (bb.61ff) and 1/ii (bb.73ff).Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Hans Dieter Clausen: Händels Direktionspartituren (‘Handexemplare’) (Hamburg, 1972), 252, 273Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    A list of the works in the Malmesbury manuscript is given in Best, p. 97. (I am grateful to Terence Best and to Anthony Hicks for providing additional information about the contents of the manuscript.)Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    Hudson, p. 57; idem: preface to Bärenreiter miniature score of op.3 no.1 (Kassel, 1960), pp. v, viiGoogle Scholar
  15. 14.
    Stanley Sadie: Handel Concertos (London, 1972), 14Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Frederick Hudson: preface to Bärenreiter miniature score of op.3 no.2 (Kassel, 1960), pp. v, viiGoogle Scholar
  17. 16.
    HG, ix (1863)Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    F. Schroeder, ed.: HHA I/7: Passion nach Barthold Heinrich Brockes (Kassel, 1965)Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Jens Peter Larsen: Handel’s ‘Messiah’: Origins, Composition, Sources (London, 1957), 273, 299. Five other manuscripts by this copyist, mostly dating from around 1717, are listed in Winton Dean: ‘Handel’s Early London Copyists’, Bach, Handel, Scarlatti: Tercentenary Essays, ed. P. Williams (Cambridge, 1985), 88.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    William Barclay Squire: Catalogue of the King’s Music Library, i: The Handel Manuscripts (London, 1927), 108Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    Hudson’s sole comment is that the fugue appears ‘between movements not belonging to the Brockes Passion’ (‘zwischen nicht zur Brockes-Passion gehörenden Sätzen’).Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    Critica Musica, ii (Hamburg, 1725), 12ffGoogle Scholar
  23. 22.
    see Table X: ‘Exemplum Septimae Quartae et Secundae extra organum’. The preface of Das Beschützte Orchestre is dated ‘Hamburg, den 21. Febr. und edirt auf Michaelis 1717’Google Scholar
  24. 23.
    Otto Erich Deutsch: Handel: a Documentary Biography (London, 1955), 83Google Scholar
  25. 24.
    as noted by Sadie, p. 15Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    Six Fugues or Voluntarys for the Organ or Harpsicord (London, 1735). The collection is labelled ‘Troisieme ovarage’ (sic), despite the issue of the concerti grossi as ‘Opera Terza’ a year earlier.Google Scholar
  27. 26.
    Burrows: Walsh’s Editions’, 80–94Google Scholar
  28. 27.
    ibid, 83–8Google Scholar
  29. 28.
    Charles Burney: A General History of Music (London, 1776–89), ed. F. Mercer (London, 1935), ii, 699: ‘It was perhaps on this occasion that Handel performed his admirable hautbois concerto in F, which was long known by the name of the orchestra concerto’ (see also Deutsch, p. 71).Google Scholar
  30. 29.
    Frederick Hudson: preface to Bärenreiter miniature score of op. 3 no.4 (Kassel, 1960), pp. v, viiGoogle Scholar
  31. 30.
    Six Overtures fitted to the Harpsicord or Spinnet … Third Collection, (London, 1728); see Smith and Humphries, p. 281Google Scholar
  32. 31.
    Another manuscript, GB-Lbm R.M. 18.c.1 (mentioned by Hudson; Kritischer Bericht, 29) includes a’ symphony in Amadis’ on ff.4–5v; but this consists only of the first movement of op.3 no.4.Google Scholar
  33. 32.
    GB-Lbm R.M. 18.b.8, f.13: Andante of hwv 87 in G (2nd movement of op.3 no.4); f.86v: Menuets hwv 516a/517 (4th movement of op.3 no.4); see Hudson: Kritischer Bericht, 29–30Google Scholar
  34. 33.
    Pieces for Harpsichord, ed. W. Barclay Squire and J. A. Fuller Maitland (London, 1928)Google Scholar
  35. 34.
    The presence of the concerto movement in Walsh’s print is first mentioned in J. Merrill Knapp: ‘The Autograph Manuscripts of Handel’s Ottone’, Festskrift Jens Peter Larsen 1902–1972 (Copenhagen, 1972), 170.Google Scholar
  36. 35.
    GB-Lbm R.M. 20.b.9Google Scholar
  37. 36.
    listed by Hudson: Kritischer Bericht, 32Google Scholar
  38. 37.
    D-B Scholar
  39. 38.
    GB-Cfm MS 265, 91–3, 95; see Hudson: Kritischer Bericht, 58–9Google Scholar
  40. 39.
    ‘Walsh’s Editions’, 91 n.22Google Scholar
  41. 40.
    Best, p. viiiGoogle Scholar
  42. 41.
    GB-Lbm R.M. 18.b.6, ff.5–8: ‘Allegro Sgr Hande[l]’; see William D. Gudger: The Organ Concertos of G. F. Handel: a Study based on the Primary Sources (diss., Yale U., 1973), ii, 102Google Scholar
  43. 42.
    Burrows: Walsh’s Editions’, 91–3Google Scholar
  44. 43.
    Burrows: ibid, 91 n.22, suggests that the movement originated with Handel’s oratorio performances at Oxford in 1733, but Burney (’sketch of the Life of Handel’, An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster-Abbey, London, 1785, p. 23) mentions only that Handel ‘opened the organ’ at the performance of Athalia, causing Michael Christian Festing and Thomas Arne to remark that never before had they heard such playing, ‘extempore or premeditated’. The reference is surely to solo organ improvisations, not to the playing of a concerto movement.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Royal Musical Association 1987

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  • Hans Joachim Marx

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