Harmonia Early Music

Handel’s Harp with Maxine Eilander

Handel’s harp music with Maxine Eilander, the Toronto Consort and Elizabethan England, and More Hispano explores Spanish and Italian Renaissance improvisation.

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Photo: Bernard Gordillo (adapted)

'Handel's Harp' on the ATMA Classique label with Maxine Eilander, harp, Cyndia Sieden, soprano, and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra (Stephen Stubbs, dir.).

Handel and the harp

For an audience member attending the premiere of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Alexander’s Feast” in 1736, it must have come as a total surprise to hear a harp concerto within the drama. It was, after all, a completely novel thing to do, even for Handel. But then again, the harp is an ancient symbol and one associated with power (remember King David or Orpheus), so a noble character playing the harp only reinforced the audience’s understanding of what they saw and heard.

Handel was, of course, aware of this. And while he didn’t compose music for the harp very often, the few works he did write show that he knew what kind of effect it would have on his audience.

George Frideric Handel: Concerto for Harp in B-flat major, I.Allegro moderato, II.Larghetto, and III.Allegro moderato
Maxine Eilander, harp, Cyndia Sieden, soprano, and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra/Stephen Stubbs — Handel’s Harp (ATMA, 2009)
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Harpist Maxine Eilander

The virtuoso baroque harpist Maxine Eilander also knew this when she recorded the surviving works by Handel for the harp on the ATMA label. Entitled “Handel’s Harp,” Eilander collaborated with soprano Cyndia Sieden and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra (directed by Stephen Stubbs) in order to bring together the harp music found in the oratorios Esther and Alexander’s Feast, and the opera Giulio Cesare (including a few extras).

Although Handel’s harp concerto is known to many a harpist, the Sinfonia and aria V’adoro pupille from Giulio Cesare are among the most popular excerpts. Sung by Cleopatra, the words to V’adoro pupille are a pure expression of love and longing—“I adore you, eyes, lightning bolts of love, your sparks are welcome in my breast.”

George Frideric Handel: Sinfonia and "V'adoro pupille" from Giulio Cesare
Maxine Eilander, harp, Cyndia Sieden, soprano, and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra/Stephen Stubbs — Handel’s Harp (ATMA, 2009)
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Consort music for Queen Elisabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I wasn’t just an all-powerful English monarch, but a significant patron of a vibrant musical culture at her court, which boasted the employ of many famous composers during the English Renaissance. As well, according to contemporary accounts, the Queen was known on several occasions to sing, dance, and play the lute or virginals.

One popular form of music heard at court was the consort song, which involved multiple singers performing newly composed music whose themes ran the gamut from the pastoral to the erotic or the merely suggestive.

Thomas Tomkins: “See, see the shepherd’s queene”
The Toronto Consort/David Fallis — The Queen: Music for Queen Elizabeth I (Marquis Music , 2009)
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Featured release

Our featured release is a debut recording by the Spanish ensemble More Hispano on the Carpe Diem label. True to their central artistic mission, the ensemble (directed by recorder player Vicente Parrila) focuses on improvisations, using Renaissance and early baroque tunes from Spain and Italy.

Enriquez de Valderrábano & Anonymous: Conde Claros
More Hispano/Vicente Parrilla — Yr a Oydo (Carpe Diem , 2010)
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George Frideric Handel: Concerto for Harp in B-flat major, I.Allegro moderato, II.Larghetto, and III.Allegro moderato
Maxine Eilander, harp, Cyndia Sieden, soprano, and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra/Stephen Stubbs — Handel’s Harp (ATMA, 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
George Frideric Handel: Sinfonia and "V'adoro pupille" from Giulio Cesare
Maxine Eilander, harp, Cyndia Sieden, soprano, and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra/Stephen Stubbs — Handel’s Harp (ATMA, 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
George Frideric Handel: Concerto in F major, Op. 4, No. 5, IV.Presto
Maxine Eilander, harp, Cyndia Sieden, soprano, and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra/Stephen Stubbs — Handel’s Harp (ATMA, 2009)
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Thomas Tomkins: “See, see the shepherd’s queene”
The Toronto Consort/David Fallis — The Queen: Music for Queen Elizabeth I (Marquis Music , 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
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John Dowland and Richard Allison: “Time Stands Still & the Lady Frances Sidney’s Almayne”
The Toronto Consort/David Fallis — The Queen: Music for Queen Elizabeth I (Marquis Music , 2009)
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John Dowland: “Can she excuse my wrongs”
The Toronto Consort/David Fallis — The Queen: Music for Queen Elizabeth I (Marquis Music , 2009)
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Various/Improvisation/Diego Ortiz: Passamezzo moderno
More Hispano/Vicente Parrilla — Yr a Oydo (Carpe Diem , 2010)
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Enriquez de Valderrábano & Anonymous: Conde Claros
More Hispano/Vicente Parrilla — Yr a Oydo (Carpe Diem , 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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