Hyperion Records

Organ Concerto No 14 in A major, HWV296a
Handel devoted almost his entire career to composing, arranging, adapting, revising, rehearsing, promoting and performing works for the London stage. In addition to a substantial run of Italian operas between 1711 and 1741, which included new works and plenty of revivals, his oratorios were all envisaged for performance in theatres. A few years after his introduction of English oratorio to the public in 1732, Handel started to exploit his renown as a brilliant virtuoso organist by performing the solo part in concertos in between the acts of oratorios.

The composer’s autograph manuscript of the Organ Concerto No 14 in A major HWV296a is undated, but its paper-type suggests that he composed it in early 1739. Its first performance was probably on 20 March 1739, at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, an evening which also featured a revival of the ode Alexander’s Feast. Unlike the context of most of his other organ concertos, Handel probably incorporated HWV296a within the narrative of the main entertainment. In earlier performances of Alexander’s Feast, the recitative ‘Timotheus, plac’d on high’ had been followed by his Harp Concerto in B flat major (Op 4 No 6), which musically illustrated the text’s reference to the minstrel Timotheus playing the lyre for Alexander the Great. However, the conducting score of the ode shows that at some point—presumably 1739—the end of the recitative was recomposed in order to allow a smooth transition to inserted music in A major, the key of the organ concerto. The music for this concerto seems to have pleased Handel, who reused all four of its main movements the following October for the eleventh of his ‘Twelve Grand Concertos’ Op 6. On this recording two sections—the ad libitum and the opening of the Grave—are improvised by the organist Richard Marlow.

from notes by David Vickers © 2008

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