Printer Friendly

Georg Friederic Handel.

Georg Friederic Handel. Samson: Oratorio in Three Acts, HWV 57. Herausgegeben von Hans Dieter Clausen. (Hallische Handel-Ausgabe, Ser. I, Bd. 18). Kassel, New York: Barenreiter, 2011. [Teilband 1: Partitur von 1743. Pref. and ed. policy in Ger., Eng., p. vii-xxx; table of versions, p. xxxi-xxxiii; concordance HWV-HHA, p. xxxiv; comparison of the texts of Hamilton's manuscript wordbook and the corresponding lines in Milton's. Samson Agovisies and other works by Milton, p. xxxv-lxvii; facsims., p. lxviii-lxxv; repr. of 1743 libretto, p. lxxvi-lxxxv; text in Ger. trans., p. lxxxvi-xcvi; texts of arias added later, in. Eng.. Ger., p. xcvii.; scoring, p. 2; index of scenes, p. 3-5; score, p. 7-328. Teilband 2: Anhange und Kritischer Bericht. Anhang la: original version, p. 329-86; Anhang Ib: mvts. from intermediate 1742 version, p. 387-96; Anhang II: variants and additions, p. 397-424; Kritischer Belicht (abbrevs., p. 426; RISM sigla, p. 427; sources, p. 428-50; Einzelnachweise, p. 450-526). Pub. no. BA 4099; ISMN 979-0-006-55011-1. [euro]585.]

Georg Friederic Handel. Samson, HWV 57. Klavierauszug nach dem Urtext der Hallischen Handel-Ausgabe = Piano Reduction Based on the Urtext of the Halle Handel Edition, by Andreas Kohs. Kassel, New York: Barenreiter, 2011. [Ensemble, p. iii; pref. in Ger., Eng., by Hans Dieter Clausen, p. iv-ix; index of scenes, p. x-xii; table of versions, p. xiii-xix; score, p. 1-325; appendix 1A: original version, p. 328-89; appendix 1B: mvts. from intermediate 1742 version, p. 392-40-1; appendix II: variants and additions, p. 404-32. Pub. no. BA 4099-90; ISMN 979-0-006-54127-0. [euro]49.95.]

The musicologist in search of a particular year through which to illustrate musical activity in Europe in In mid-eighteenth century could hardly do better than 1741. Marking the end of an era, we can note the deaths of the it and theorist Johann Joseph Fux on 13 February, and of Antonio Vivaldi on 27/28 July. Tomaso Albinoni retired. Notable publications issued that year include Johann Sebastian Bach's Clavieriibung IV, which we now know as the Goldberg Variations. In France, Jean-Philippe Rameau issued Pieces de clavecin en concerts. Meanwhile, in London, George Frideric Handel directed the last staged versions of his own Italian operas. Thereafter he focused his compositional attention--in terms of large-scale works--on English oratorios, a form that he had pioneered and had included in his performance seasons for nearly a decade.

Having taken his typical late-spring and early-summer break. Handel began writing Messiah on 22 August, finishing it on 14 September. Soon thereafter he began Samson, completing the initial draft on 29 October. We can he this specific because Handel dated his scores. In November Handel left London for Dublin, where his actor friend James Quin had gone in June. Quin was joined on the stage of the Aungier Street Theatre in mid-December by another of Handel's friends, Susannah Gibber, who traveled to Dublin in order to repair her theatrica1 reputation. On 23 December Handel led the first of the concerts in two subscription set ies oi six concerts each. On 13 April 1742 he directed the first performance of Messiah, at which Gibber gave a most affecting performance of "He was despised." Having returned to the London stage the following season, Gibber was given the lead female role of Micah in Samson. Though not performed today with anything like the frequency of Messiah, Samson, from 1743 to Handel's death in 1759, was in the top four, with over fifty performances among the oratorios on sacred themes.

The story of Samson derives from the Old Testament Book of Judges, but the version set by Handel is hardly recognizable as such. As Deborah Rooke puts it in Handel's Israelite Oratorio Libretti: Sacred Drama and Biblical Exegesis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), "The biblical Samson is a wild, uncontrolled loner who despite being styled a national hero is really acting in accordance with his own impulses to satisfy his own desires" (p.120). The immediate source tor the libretto was John Milton's Samson Agonistes, in which "Samson, though still a loner, is no longer wild and impulsive, but strongly conscious of his vocation, and all of his actions are calculated as a means of fulfilling that vocation." Librettist Newburgh Hamilton makes a further adjustment, for now:


  Samson is neither wild nor a loner, but is a respected national
  hero who has accidentally come to grief', and his motivation is to
  further the cause of his and his nation's God against the god of the
  enemy. As such, his portrayal embodies the characteristically British
  ideals of resistance to tyranny and defeat of idolatrous (Catholic)
  religion dial were so strong in due minds of Hamilton's and Handel's
  contemporaries (Rooke, p. 120).


For musical inspiration Handel mined the works of Giacomo Carissimi (Jephte), Emanuele Astorga, Giovanni Legrenzi, Georg Philipp Telemann. Gottlieb Muffat, Reinhold Keiser, and Giovanni Porta, as well as one of his own early cantatas, turning the discovered ore into precious metal by means that still seem alchemical. Among the innovations is the assignment of the hero to the tenor voice, a practice common only in France heretofore. Handel took advantage of the skills of fohn Beard. whom he had nurtured since 1734, as well as the impossibility of deploying a castrato in the lead role.

Two attempts were made--in the late eighteenth century bv Samuel Arnold, and in the mid-nineteenth century by the Handel Society (London)--to produce a complete-works edition of Handel, but it was not until Friedrich Chrysander almost single-handedly brought out the Handel-Gesellschaft between 1858 and 1901 that anything like completeness was achieved. Chrysander was based in Hamburg and had access to the conducting scores, which he had persuaded a syndicate of businessmen to acquire from the Handel biographer Victor Schoelcher. Chrysander was able to make use of the Handel autographs in the Royal Library at Buckingham Palace, and the Barrett I.411 Hard Collection. but the numerous other sources that we now know of were not availahle to him.

Hans Dieter Clausen. editor of the Hallische Handel-Ausgabe (HHA) edition, first made a name for himself in 1910 with his dissertation at the University of Hamburg on Handel's conducting scores. He built on the pioneering work of Jens Peter Larson identifying copyists' hands, and utilized the study of paper-types (and their distinguishing watermarks) to great effect. His previous work for the HHA was Floridance, issued in 2005 (Ser. 11, Bd. 11). In conformance with the requirements that have developed over the decades since the project was begun during World War II, the first volume contains the score in a version claimed to be an urtext. That concept has little relevance to any composer's works, but is particularly inappropriate to one such as Handel win, adapted text as circumstances required, cutting, adding, and altering right up to performance, and certainly on subsequent occasions. To define an urtext as presenting the composer's intentions without editorial intervention is merely a marketing device, as is acknowledged by the publisher on the back cover of the vocal score: "Barenreiter Urtext: the last word in authentic text--the musician's choice." For more on the fatuousness of the term see Stanley Boorman's article in Grove, Music Online ("U rtext," http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/, accessed 14 November 2012).

Clausen 's preface to Teilband 1 includes some unsubstantiated or outdated claims, notably (on p. xix) that competitors profited from unauthorized performances of Esther and Acis and Galatea in 1732 (highl' improbable that the "impresarios" who put on these performances made or intended to make a profit); that Handel "quickly recognised in the English oratorio a possibility of presenting music to the public on those days in Lent when theatre performances were forbidden" (not until 1747 did Handel consistently arrange his seasons to coincide with Lent, and theatrical performances were not forbidden in Lent but only Holy Week; Winton Dean pointed this out in Handel's, Dramatic Oratorios and Mosques [London: Oxford University Press] in 1959!); and that "with this new type of composition he appealed also to a section of the public which had no interest in opera," a claim I dismissed at the macroeconomic level in an article in Early Music in 2000 ("Patronizing Handel, inventing Audiences," Early Music 28, no. 1 [2000]: 32-49). Likewise on p. xxi: "If Handel was still undecided about whether he should perform one of his new oratorios in Dublin, the limitations he found there will have convinced him not to proceed further with his plans for Samson." As is clear from Handel's own comments to his friend and Messiah librettist Charles Jennens. Handel was more than happy with the instrumentalists available in him in Dublin. and the recently opened Musick Room had an excellent acoustic. There is no evidence that Handel intended to take the manuscript of Samson to Dublin. while it is legitimate to suggest that Messiah had been "commissioned" by Handel's Anglo-Irish friends in London for the charity fund-raiser at which it. was first given.

Prejudice against the publishing firm of John Walsh in Handelian circles has a history dating to Sir John Hawkins, but that does not mean that if continues to be warranted. John Walsh Jr. had a long and respectful relationship with Handel. paying him for the right to publish his works. Clausen remarks (p. xxiv) that "Walsh had acted swiftly to profit from the still lively interest of music-lovers in Handel's success that season," as if Walsh was cashing-in illegitimately. His practice of issuing the arias serially by act is taken as evidence for haste, but was in fact standard practice. Charles Burney wisely remarked that Handel's works were published "in score while those of his rivals were suffered to die in silence" (A General History of Muck film the Earliest Ages to the Present Period, 4 vols. [London: Printed for the author, 1776]. 4:403).

Such errors of history detract from what are otherwise beautifully presented volumes with useful features including the side-by-side printing of Newburgh Hamilton's libretto with the corresponding lines from Milton's Samson Agonistes and other works, the table of versions, and a reproduction of a 1743 wordbook (though, unlike the manuscript sources, no indication is given of the particular copy and its owning library). The translation of the libretto into German is by the editor and Ulrich Brunckhorst. The second volume has the excluded music and the critical commentary. Regrettably. the policy for the language of the commentary is that it can be in either German or English. While this is understandable in terms of restricting the number of pages and obviating the need for translation, it does mean that readers who lack or who have minimal German are disadvantaged, as is the case on this occasion. Readers of English should turn to the latest Novella edition of die vocal score, edited by Donald Burrows (2005). where the complexities of sources. editorial choices, and performance issues are concisely laid out.

For what will remain for a century or more the definitive statement on the source materials, there are some surprising omissions from the lists of copies of wordbooks (or librettos as Clausen misleadingly calls them, confusing the abstract text with its physical instantiation). Using the English Short Title Catalogue (available through the British Library's Web page: http://estc.b1.uk) and OCLC WorldCat, additional copies of LI, L2, L3, L5, L6, L8. L9 and L11 (in the designations employed by Clausen) are readily identifiable. There are perhaps two printings (without examining the copies it is dangerous to assume that there are not more) that are not listed. A wordbook dated 1758 is to be found at Trinity College Library, Cambridge; and the Presbyterian Historical Society Library, Philadelphia. Copies of an undated wordbook published by J. & R. Tonson, the firm responsible for the other editions, are to he found at the British Library (2 copies); the Bodleian Library, Oxford; and the University of Lampeter; and also libraries in the United States. According to the article by Donald Burrows in the Musical Times ("The Word-Books for Handel's Performances of Samson," Musical Times I 16 [Spring 2005]; 7-15), these two printings are not directly related to Handel performances, but it would have been good to learn from Clausen the evidence for that claim (such as the performances for which they were printed). Furthermore, it would have been good to learn the occasion for which the 1755 wordbook now at the University of South Carolina in the Robert J. Wickenheimer Collection of John Milton, was issued. In sum, the definitive statement on wordbooks has yet to be made.

The vocal score, derived by Andreas Kohs from the "Urtext of the Halle Handel Edition," includes a preface, in German and English, by Clausen and the table of versions that appears in volume 1 of the HHA edition. These summarize or replicate the information to be found in the HHA volumes but omit what is essential hit the singers: the argument or synopsis (included in the Novell() scores). The volume is a couple of millimeters shorter and narrower than the latest vocal score from Novello, but it is much longer and thus much heavier. The new Barenreiter vocal score is 452 pages and weighs 41 oz. (1.162 kg), the new Novello is 321 pages and weighs 30 oz. (850 g). The old Novell was lightweight in comparison, a mere 190 pages and 10 oz. (283 g). A fourfold increase in weight hardly seems warranted, even when we consider that Ebenezer Prom, in preparing his edition for a performance by Arthur Sullivan at the Leeds Festival in 1880, omitted much recitative as well as alternative versions of arias and choruses. Given that performing .Samson in its fullest version takes three-and-a-quarter hours (not including the intermissions), singers will need to work on their delts and biceps just to hold up their copies. Perhaps Notes readers can supply examples of heavier vocal scores. I would imagine that no studies have been done on the score-holding capabilities of singers, but it would be good to have an idea of an upper limit. Without one, the propensity to obesity in humans will be matched by vocal scores.

Despite the avowed intent to publish an urtext, both the full and vocal scores reveal occasions where dynamic and tempo markings have been added that are not in Handel's own "original" manuscript. See, for example, the air "With plaintive notes" (no. 21) where Burrows--unlike Kohs--puts brackets around the f marking at the beginning, and the a tempo indication at measure 53. Some trill and simile marks are treated the same way. Knits adds flows, such as in the air "Your charms to nun led the way" (no. 25). This may be helpful to some performers, but it can hardly be said to uphold the urtext principle. On the other hand, we should acknowledge the huge amount of work that has gone into the preparation of these editions. The contemporary sources, both printed and manuscript, are numerous it nut totally overwhelming. Flanders initial thoughts and changes have been documented in a way never before attempted for this work. These editions will form the basis for innumerable performances that will diverge in ways large and small from Handel's and the editors instructions.

Sixteen months after its initial drafting, and having undergone significant revision, Samson received its first performance on 19 February 1743. It is impossible for two major works from a single composer written in the same year to occupy the top spot in esteem. Thus Samson. had the misfortune to be overshadowed by Messiah. Nevertheless, the work has numerous examples of Handel at his most expressive, manipulating sounds with a genius paralleled by Shakespeare with words. Samson's emotional and spiritual struggle, which in Milton's imagery is couched in terms of conflict between darkness and light, is conveyed in such arias as "Thus when the sun" and "Total eclipse." The chorus is no mere observer, but an active participant, notably as a double choir enacting opposing theologies in "Fix'd in his everlasting seat." In 1741 Handel wrote two works that., in their own ways, set the mark for innovation, practice, and genre for centuries to come.

DAVID HUNTER

University of Texas at Austin
COPYRIGHT 2013 Music Library Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:'Samson: Oratorio in Three Acts, HWV 57' and 'Samson, HWV 57: Klavierauszug nach dem Urtext der Hallischen Handel-Ausgabe = Piano Reduction Based on the Urtext of the Halle Handel Edition'
Author:Hunter, David
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2013
Words:2675
Previous Article:Kurt Weill.
Next Article:MUSIC RECEIVED.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |