Beethoven: Symphony No. 9; Handel: Organ ConcertoBeethoven: Symphony No. 9
The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, is the final complete symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827). Completed in 1824, the symphony is one of the best-known works of the Western classical repertoire. Among critics, it is almost universally considered to be among Beethoven's greatest works, and is considered by some to be the greatest piece of music ever written.
The symphony was the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony (thus making it a choral symphony). The words are sung during the final movement by four vocal soloists and a chorus. They were taken from the "Ode to Joy", a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additions made by the composer. Today, it stands as one of the most played symphonies in the world.
Handel: Organ Concerto
Handel's six organ concertos were published in 1738 by John Walsh as the composer's Opus 4. The four concertos HWV 290-293 had been written to be played in the intervals of performances of his oratorios Esther, Deborah and Athalia in March and April 1735 in the newly opened theatre of John Rich in Covent Garden; the other two concertos HWV 289 and 294 served the same purpose in February and March of the following year for performances at the same venue of Alexander's Feast HWV 75, Handel's setting of John Dryden's ode.
The performances of Esther and Deborah were revivals, while Athalia was a reworking for its first London performance of a work first heard in Oxford in the summer of 1733. The violinist Festing and the composer Arne reported to the musicologist Charles Burney that Handel had included organ solos in the Oxford performances: he had "opened the organ in such a manner as astonished every hearer" and "neither themselves, nor any one of their acquaintance, had ever before heard such extempore, or such premeditated playing, on that or any other instrument."
Handel's prowess as an organist had already been demonstrated in Rome in 1707 in a contest with the composer Domenico Scarlatti, when his playing on the organ was rated higher than Scarlatti's playing on the harpsichord; his reputation as a great organist had already been established during his one year position as cathedral organist in Halle in 1702. Handel's organ concertos thus have a special place in his oeuvre. They paved the way for Mozart and Beethoven, who like Handel achieved fame in their lifetimes as composers and performers of their own concertos.
In the sinfonias of some of his cantatas, Johann Sebastian Bach had already introduced concerto movements for organ and orchestra. However, Bach's organs in both Weimar and Leipzig were large organs with double keyboards and pedals, powerful instruments that could only dominate a baroque orchestra. Bach's organ writing in the sinfonias lacks the complexity of his writing for solo organ; it is in two parts, as if for harpsichord, with the bass line doubling the continuo. The small English chamber organs at Handel's disposal, with a single keyboard and no pedals, produced a softer sound that could be properly integrated with a small orchestra, making possible a unique form of concerto close to chamber music.
The precise reasons why Handel introduced this new musical form, the concerto for chamber organ and orchestra, have been discussed in detail by Cummings (2007). He concludes that Handel, faced by financial difficulties in mounting Italian opera, exacerbated by a newly established opera company in fierce competition for an audience, decided to showcase himself as a virtuoso composer-performer, thus providing a rival attraction to the celebrated castrato Farinelli, the glittering star of his competitors.
Handel's chamber organs
Handel had begun to introduce the chamber organ into his oratorios in 1732 in order to reinforce the voices in the chorus. The oratorios Esther and Deborah include elaborate choruses drawn from his earlier Coronation Anthems. Deborah is scored for two harpsichords and two organs, one for each choir in the double chorus. Two solo arias in Deborah in which the organ doubles a solo transverse flute suggest organ-stops which could produce a soft timbre. Handel's instruments he used were most likely the single keyboard portable chamber organs with four stops constructed by John Snetzler, the leading organbuilder in London.
When Handel moved his company from the King's Theatre to the newly built theatre in Covent Garden, in autumn 1734, organs appeared explicitly for the first time in his operas. The danced prologue Terpischore HWV 8b performed there contains sumptuous scoring for alto recorders, violins, violas and pizzicato cellos with the bass and treble lines doubled by organs; Handel marked the score, "Les orgues doucement, e la Teorbe".
In March 1735 the London Daily Post and General Advertiser announced that Handel had decided to incorporate in later performances of Deborah "a large new Organ, which is remarkable for the Variety of Curious Stops, being a new Invention, and a great Improvement of that Instrument." Although the maker of that instrument or its successors remains unknown, the dynamic markings in the detailed organ parts for Alexander's Feast suggest a single manual organ with six stops rather than four. Whoever the organbuilder, Handel added a codicil to his will in 1757 bequeathing to John Rich his "Great Organ which stands at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden.
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