Hyperion Records

An Ode for St Cecilia's Day, HWV76
composer
1739
author of text

Recordings
'Handel: An Ode for St Cecilia’s Day' (CDA67463)
Handel: An Ode for St Cecilia’s Day
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67463 
'Handel: Essential Handel' (KING6)
Handel: Essential Handel
Buy by post £4.50 KING6  Super-budget price sampler — Last few CD copies remaining  
'Handel: An Ode for St Cecilia’s Day' (SACDA67463)
Handel: An Ode for St Cecilia’s Day
SACDA67463  Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
'The King's Consort Collection' (KING7)
The King's Consort Collection
KING7  Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
Details
No 01. Overture Part 1: Larghetto, e staccato
Track 1 on CDA67463 [1'31]
Track 1 on SACDA67463 [1'31] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
No 01. Overture Part 2: Allegro
Track 2 on CDA67463 [2'00]
Track 2 on SACDA67463 [2'00] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
No 01. Overture Part 3: Minuet
Track 3 on CDA67463 [1'14]
Track 3 on SACDA67463 [1'14] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
No 02. Recitative: From harmony, from heav'nly harmony
No 03. Aria: When Nature underneath a heap
No 04. Chorus: From harmony, from heav'nly harmony
No 05. Aria: What passion cannot Music raise and quell!
No 06. Aria and Chorus: The trumpet's loud clangour
Track 8 on CDA67463 [3'40]
Track 3 on KING6 [3'40] Super-budget price sampler — Last few CD copies remaining
Track 8 on SACDA67463 [3'40] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
Track 18 on KING7 [3'39] Super-budget price sampler — Deleted
No 07: March
Track 9 on CDA67463 [1'53]
Track 9 on SACDA67463 [1'53] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
No 08. Aria: The soft complaining flute
No 09. Aria: Sharp violins proclaim
No 10. Aria: But oh! What art can teach
No 11. Aria: Orpheus could lead the savage race
No 12. Accompagnato: But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder
No 13. Solo and Chorus: As from the pow'r of sacred lays

An Ode for St Cecilia's Day, HWV76
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According to the dates on his autograph score Handel composed A Song for St Cecilia’s Day between 15 and 24 September 1739. (A Song was Dryden’s title, copied by Handel; the more usual title, An Ode for St Cecilia’s Day appears first in Randall’s edition of 1771.) So swift a rate of composition was not exceptional for Handel, but in this case it was to some extent expedited by a remarkable amount of musical borrowing from the Componimenti of Gottlieb Muffat (1690–1770), a newly published set of suites for harpsichord. (Copies of several fragments from Muffat are found among Handel’s autograph sketches.) In the ode Handel not only expands and improves Muffat’s material, but also brings fragments of separate pieces together and fits them into contexts for which one might easily assume they were originally conceived. In the opening accompanied recitative, for example, the shifting harmonies depicting primordial chaos, and the lively exchanges between violins and basses suggesting the atoms obediently arranging themselves into order, are apt pieces of tone painting; yet both are taken from different Muffat suites.

The ode opens with a splendid overture with which Handel seems to have been particularly pleased, since he converted it into his Grand Concerto in D major (Op 6 No 5) a month after composing it. The accompanied recitative just mentioned follows and the chorus enters to close Dryden’s first stanza in jubilant style. The stanzas describing the attributes of the various instruments are all set with appropriate instrumental solos (though Dryden’s ‘flute’ was a recorder rather than the transverse flute prescribed by Handel) and are admirably contrasted in mood. ‘What passion cannot Music raise and quell!’, with its gorgeous cello solo representing Jubal’s lyre, and the solemn tribute to the organ show Handel at his most expressive, while the celebration of the war-like qualities of the trumpet is one of his most exciting movements. Handel seems to have added the more formal March (not prescribed by Dryden) to bring back a more sedate mood, again using a motive from Muffat. The sprightly hornpipe with which Orpheus apparently leads the wild beasts is perhaps a shade incongruous, but it is a light-hearted moment which allows the magnificent setting of the final verse to unfold all the more powerfully. The soprano soloist begins to declaim Dryden’s lines in a hymn-like major-key melody, each phrase echoed by the full chorus, but at the mention of the ‘crumbling pageant’ of the ‘last and dreadful hour’ the music turns into minor-key mode and passes through dark modulations to A flat major, the key furthest from the tonic key of D major. The soprano and a solo trumpet then emerge majestically from the gloom to restore the home key and prepare for the final fugue, a grandiloquent extension of a subject taken from Muffat. Handel, a man of plain and devout belief, could contemplate the Last Judgement with unclouded optimism.

from notes by Anthony Hicks © 2004

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