Handel’s final orchestral creations constituted three ‘Concerti a due cori’, perhaps designed for entertainment, ‘en plein air’, with their deliberately scored timbral exchanges between groups – or choirs – of winds. Sonata No. 4 in A major (after five movements from Concerto a due cori in B-flat major) is less instrumentally colourful than the other two and perhaps more obviously vocal than any multi-movement instrumental piece Handel ever wrote. Recasting music from recent oratorios of the late 1740s, the spirit of regeneration makes for a particularly open-shouldered and uplifting duo. The ‘due cori’ element inspires a part- reallocation from oboe to trumpet, but it is un-slavishly applied to create something re- integrated into its new context. After the opening French overture of Alexander Balus, Handel revisits ‘And the glory of the Lord’ from Messiah, an allegro culled from Belshazzar’s splendid chorus, ‘See, from his post Euphrates flies!’, a similar adaptation of ‘Lucky omens bless our rites’ – the chorus of priests from Semele – and finally a scintillating Minuet from the aria, ‘Non t’inganni la speranza’ from the opera, Lotario, whose da capo cries out for sizzling embellishments.

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

Parts included:

  • Trumpet in C
  • Piano

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