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Hyperion Records

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Venus and Mercury by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)
Reproduced by kind permission of The Governors of Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55136
Recording details: December 1984
St Barnabas's Church, North Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: July 2003
Total duration: 14 minutes 22 seconds

Clori, mia bella Clori, HWV92
composer
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Handel left his native Germany for the first time in 1706 and journeyed to Italy, where he remained for about four years. It was one of the most important and fruitful periods of his life. Through his teacher at Halle, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, he had acquired the thorough technical grounding expected in a German church musician, and while composing and playing for the opera at Hamburg he had gained some impression of French and Italian styles, but only at second hand. To achieve his ambition of becoming an opera composer of the first rank he needed the experience of Italy itself—acquiring a good knowledge of the language, working with Italian singers and instrumentalists, and absorbing into his own compositions the colour and drama of the newest Italian music.

What Handel wanted above all in Italy was to perfect his skill in writing for the voice. This aim, however, was not best achieved in the hectic and sometimes acrimonious conditions of the opera house, but rather in the calmer and more sympathetic surroundings of the great houses of the noble patrons of music in Rome and elsewhere. At this time the performance of cantatas for solo voice or voices was a common form of domestic entertainment in which poets, composers and singers could display and refine their talents. Most cantatas were written for just one voice and continuo, but larger cantatas with instrumental accompaniment (up to the size of a miniature opera) were produced for special occasions. Handel wrote about a hundred such cantatas in Italy, and they cover the full range of the genre. Through them he gained the experience he needed and in doing so produced a stream of wonderful music to which he was to return many times in later years when in search of ideas for new compositions.

Many of Handel’s cantatas were written for the Marchese Ruspoli, his most important Roman patron. They were performed at meetings of the ‘Arcadian Academy’, a society of noblemen and artists dedicated to high standards of cultural attainment in Rome, especially in poetry and music. Ruspoli was a leading member of the group and presided when the meetings were held at his main residence (the Bonelli Palace) in Rome. Handel spent six months with Ruspoli in 1707 and returned in the spring of 1708 to produce his major work for Rome, the oratorio La Resurrezione. The early part of the summer was taken up with a visit to Naples and Handel then returned for a final stay at the Bonelli Palace in August and September. Ruspoli’s household accounts provide many details of payments to musicians and copyists. From these we learn that the two longest cantatas on this CD were composed during Handel’s last period with Ruspoli in 1708. Clori, mia bella Clori is not specifically mentioned in the accounts, but it is certainly a Roman work (a copy by Angelini, Handel’s chief copyist in Rome, is extant) and may possibly be the unnamed cantata performed at a conversazione on 26 June 1707, for which two violinists were engaged.

Though enhanced by its parts for violins, Clori, mia bella Clori is fairly typical of the simpler kind of solo cantata. The singer represents a young man reflecting on the absence (possibly the permanent loss) of his lover Chloris. His changes of mood are expressed in four arias. The third aria is perhaps the most beautiful: the sighs of the despairing lover are evoked by drooping figures on the violins answered by simple descending phrases in the bass. This aria later became the basis of a solo in the Chandos anthem The Lord is my light, and the opening aria (‘Chiari lumi’) was re-used in Rinaldo as ‘Di Sion nell’ alta sede’.

from notes by Anthony Hicks © 1985

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