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Handel in Italy: Music for Roman Patrons and a Neapolitan Wedding

The Italian Sojourn

While in his twenties, George Frideric Handel lived in Italy for a period of time. Although he was based in Rome, commissions of one sort or another also took him to Florence, Venice, and Naples. And like any young and talented composer of his day, Handel easily attracted patronage.

Apparently, it was the “Cardinal” rule. That is, Handel’s first Roman patrons were all Cardinals. His earliest compositions were written for Cardinals Benedetto Pamphilli, Carlo Colonna, and Pietro Ottoboni—all men with significant wealth and power.

Cardinal Pamphilli, in particular, also provided texts for some of Handel’s vocal works; the first was for the cantata Il Delirio Amoroso.

Latin Church Music

Of the many kinds of music that Handel composed in Rome, his Latin Church music stands out for its originality. The works, including large-scale Psalm settings as well as Marian antiphons, culminated in a performance at the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1707. Handel later took musical ideas from his Latin works for other compositions after he moved away from Italy. Ever the recycler, Handel regularly came back to these pieces for inspiration.

Aci,Galatea, e Polifemo

On one of his journeys outside of Rome, Handel was taken to Naples where he provided a dramatic cantata for a wedding celebration. That work was the first of two settings on the love triangle between two lovers, Acis and Galatea, and the lustful Polyphemus.

La Resurrezione

Perhaps the most extraordinary work that Handel composed in Rome was the oratorio La Resurrezione, a dramatic setting of the Christ’s resurrection. Commissioned by the Marquis of Ruspoli, the work was premiered on Easter Sunday in 1708. The performance was elaborate, to say the least, and included a special set with backdrops. The music was performed by a very large orchestra, led by the esteemed violinist Arcangelo Corelli.

New Release

Our new release of the week features the guitar music of Ludovico Roncalli. American guitarist Richard Savino is the soloist in a Dorian label release of selected sonatas from Roncalli’s 1692 publication, Capricci armonici, or “Harmonic Caprices.”

Here's a video of the aria "Disseratevi, o porte d’Averno" from Handel's La Resurrezione:

The music heard on this episode was performed by Anne Sofie von Otter, La Risonanza, The Taverner Consort and Players, London Baroque, The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, and Richard Savino.

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