George Frideric Handel was born in Halle in 1685, the son of a well established barbersurgeon by his second wife. After matriculation in 1702 at Halle University and a brief period as organist at the Calvinist Church in the city, he moved to Hamburg in order to further a career in music, on which he was now decided. Employment at the opera, at first as a violinist and then as harpsichordist and composer was followed, in 1706, by travel to Italy, the source of the form his music had taken. Here, in Florence, Venice and Rome he made a name for himself, writing music in a number of genres, church music, opera, Italian oratorio, cantatas and instrumental works, while, in a keyboard contest with his contemporary Domenico Scarlatti, he was declared the better organist, with Scarlatti allowed to be a better harpsichordist. A meeting in Venice with members of the court of the Elector of Hanover led to Handel's appointment in 1710 as Kapellrneister to the Elector, while contact with the English ambassador was presumably instrumental in an immediate invitation to London for the newly established Italian opera. His return to Hanover the following year, after a short stay in Düsseldorf at the court of the Elector Palatine, lasted for some fifteen months, before a definitive return to London, where he now settled, occupied very largely with the Italian opera. It was when the commercial success of the opera began to decline, particularly with the establishment of two rival houses, that Handel turned his attention to anew form, English oratorio. This had an obvious appeal to a Protestant audience, avoiding, as it did, the problems of performance in a foreign language and the incongruities of plot that had become an inevitable concomitant of Italian opera seria. His last opera, Deidamia, was staged in London in 1741 and his last English oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth, an adaptation of a work he had written in Rome fifty years before, was given at Covent Garden in 1757 and 1758. Handel died in 1759, but his musical influence continued to dominate popular taste, doing much to eclipse the work of native composers.
As a practical musician, Handel borrowed extensively from his own earlier compositions and, as need arose, from the work of others, following the standard practice of the time His three Oboe Concerti have been variously designated The third of the series, the Concerto in G minor was first published, it seems, in Leipzig in 1863, when it was attributed to Handel and described as a work of 1703, although no other source is now known. In four movements, the concerto opens with a slow movement of characteristically dotted rhythm, a touch of that French style that the aging Corelli, working with Handel in Rome, had claimed to be beyond his comprehension. The second movement Allegro is followed by a Sarabande and a final dance movement thematically derived from the first movement.
Concerto No 2 in B flat major was published with the first in London in 1740 by Walsh in the fourth volume of his Select Harmony Whatever the original date of composition, the concerto certainly borrows extensively from overtures to two of the Chandos Anthems, written in 1717 and 1718 for James Brydges, created Duke of Chandos in the following year. The material from O come let us sing unto the Lord and I will magnify thee, O God is transposed and re-arranged to make what is, to all intents and purposes, a sonata da chiesa, following the established form of such church concertos with an emphatic opening slow movement, a second fugal Allegro, a third slower movement leading directly to a final Allegro in triple time. It has been suggested that the concerto was arranged by Handel for the Dutch oboist Jean Christian Kytch, who was employed by the Duke of Chandos in 1719 and 1720. It was the sight of Kytch's children begging, after the death of their father, that in 1738 inspired the establishment of the Fund for the Support of Decayed Musicians and their Families, a charity to which Handel contributed generously.
Concerto No 1 in B flat major is similar in form to the third and is generally thought to belong to the earlier period of Handel's life, written either in Hamburg or in Italy. It opens with an Adagio, leading to an Allegro, followed by a Siciliana and a final short Vivace, in the rhythm of a minuet, suggesting immediate kinship with the Concerto in G minor.
The Air and Rondo are arranged for oboe by the English oboist Evelyn Rothwell, and orchestrated by Anthony Camden. The Air uses the descending arpeggio figure, common, in one form or another, in Handel's instrumental music. It is followed by a lively Rondo, in which the principal theme frames contrasting episodes.
The Suite in G minor, attributed to Handel, has no certain source in its present form, derived, as it is, from an anonymous manuscript in the library of the Furstenberg family and here adapted by Anthony Camden. A solemn and very Handelian French Overture, framing the traditional livelier dance section, leads to a Gavotte and a pair of Bourrées played in alternation. A slow Sarabande offers the chance of a fine solo oboe aria and this is followed by a contrasting Rigaudon. The Passacaille follows the traditional Baroque dance-variation form and the Suite ends with a rapid Passepied.
The opera Ottone, Rè di Germania (Otho, King of Germany) was first staged at the King's Theatre, Haymarket, London, in 1723 and underwent various revisions and changes during the next ten years. There is some doubt as to the original form of the overture to the opera and it seems that the present three-movement work, with its opening French overture, fugal Allegro with the interplay of two oboes and final Gavotte may have had an earlier, independent existence. The Gavotte in particular enjoyed considerable contemporary popularity, described by Dr Bumey as 'the delight of all who could play, or hear it played, on every kind of instrument, from the organ to the salt-box'
Anthony Camden is solo oboist with the London Virtuosi, having served as principal oboe in the London Symphony Orchestra from 1972 to 1988. His solo recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra include the Bach Concerto for violin and oboe, with Yehudi Menuhin, the Oboe Concerto by Grace Williams and a video of music by Bach with Claudio Abbado. He founded the London Virtuosi in 1972 with James Galway and John Georgiadis and the ensemble thereafter toured widely in the Americas, throughout Europe and in the Far East. Anthony Camden himself, the son of a very distinguished British bassoonist, has given master classes at many of the most famous conservatories and schools of music and is currently Dean of Music at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and an Honorary Professor of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In addition to some 400 recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, his recordings with the London Virtuosi include Mozart's Oboe Quartet, a Telemann Trio for flute, oboe and harpsichord with James Galway and for RCA Haydn's Divertimento for oboe and strings, while for Naxos he has recorded Albinoni's Oboe Concerti, Opp 7 and 9, Handel's Oboe Concertos Nos 1- 3, Air and Rondo, Suite in G Minor and Overture to "Otho". Anthony Camden plays on a Howarth Oboe.
Julia Girdwood is currently Principal Oboist of the Covent Garden Orchestra In 1977 she became the first Gold Medal winner of the Shell/London Symphony Orchestra Scholarship for young musicians. She then studied in London with Anthony Camden. In the last few years she has appeared as guest Principal with all the London Orchestras and has recorded both the Mozart and the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concertos. She also plays on a Howarth Oboe.
City of London Sinfonia
The City of London sinfonia was founded in 1971 by the conductor Richard Hickox and has been acclaimed as one of Britain's most distinguished orchestras. With Hickox as artistic director and Andrew Watkinson as leader and director, the City of London sinfonia appears at many of the leading English festivals and concert venues, makes regular broadcasts on radio and television and has an enviable recording repertoire. The sinfonia also promotes its own series of autumn and spring concerts in London at the Barbican and South Bank Centres and has a significant reputation in the recording studio with many successful titles recorded for Chandos, EMI, Decca, Hyperion and Virgin Classics and Naxos.
Nicholas Ward was born in Manchester in 1952, the son of parents who had met as members of the Halle Orchestra. In consequence music played an important part in his life from childhood, allowing him, after less successful attempts as a pianist, to learn the violin and, at the age of twelve, to form his own string quartet This last continued for some five years, until he entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he studied with Yossi Zivoni and later, in Brussels, with André Gertler. In 1977 Nicholas Ward moved to London, where he joined the Melos Ensemble and the Royal Philharmonic, when the orchestra worked under Antal Dorati as its Principal Conductor. He became co-leader of the City of London sinfonia in 1984, a position followed by appointment as leader of the Northern Chamber Orchestra, of which he became Music Director two years later, directing from the violin. In this form the orchestra has won high regard for its work both in the concert hall and the broadcasting studio.
ReviewsSuch highly embellished and individual shaped performances make a good case for these early Handel concertos - Gramophone