Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Handel - Sonata For Recorder in F Major

In Handel's time, specific music for specific instruments was not always the case. Music that had been written  for an instrument or combination of instruments was being transcribed and used for other combinations. The style of writing music for a figured bass gave a certain amount of leeway to the performer as far as instruments to play the music and the accompaniment.. Ensemble playing could be just as heavily represented by wind instruments as stringed instruments, and the Baroque composer actually had a wide variety of instruments to choose from.

Take stringed instruments for example. The violin family (that consists of violin, viola and violincello) existed along with the viol family. Viols are distinct from violins as their fingerboards are flat instead of curved,  they have frets whereas violins do not, they have six strings to the violins four, and they are tuned in fourths versus the violin tuning in fifths. Composers such as Bach used these two families, sometimes in combinations of the two, to get the sound they wanted.  There was also differences within the flute family.

There was the flute as we know it, held sideways with the tone produced by playing across an opening on the top towards the front called the transverse flute, and a flute that was held straight from the player with the tone produced by the player blowing into a whistle mouthpiece called the recorder. The volume of the recorder is not as loud or pronounced as the transverse flute, and the tone is quite different. 

Handel composed sonatas for various solo instruments. In keeping with the flexibility of the times, some could be played by either violin, transverse flute, oboe, or recorder, but others were instrument-specific. These were indeed solo sonatas, as the melody remained in the solo instrument part while the accompanying instruments filled in the bass part and harmonies. Along with the solo instrument, a bass instrument such as the cello, viola da gamba, bassoon or theorbo would play the bass line while a keyboard instrument or stringed instrument capable of playing chords would fill in the harmonies as outlined in the figured bass.  
First two lines of Sonata in F showing figured bass
Handel's solo sonatas were written over a period of time, but the first collection of twelve sonatas was printed in 1732 in England. The Sonata In F of this collection does have the designation 'flauto solo' in the printed score, and the word 'flauto' in Handel's time meant recorder. 

The Sonata For Recorder In F follows the structure of the sonata of the time, as it consisted of four movements with the tempos being slow-fast-slow-fast. In Handel's time the two distinct forms of sonatas, sonata de chiesa (church sonata) and sonata de camera (chamber sonata) were combining. The sonata for recorder is one of these sonatas:

I. Larghetto - A stately beginning to the sonata in the home key of F major. The end of the movement prepares the way for a change of key to the dominant C major.

II. Allegro - The first section is in the key of C major, second section begins in C but moves towards the home key and ends in F major.   

III. Siciliana - A slow song with a gently moving rhythm, in the relative key of D minor. Makes a transition in the end of the movement to the dominant of D minor, the key of A major 

IV. Allegro - A rapid dance in 12/8 time. It resembles a jig, a type of dance used in the dance suites of the
Baroque era, usually as the last part.

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