Hyperion Records

Fugue or Voluntary No 5 in A minor, HWV609
composer
1716/7; published 1735

Recordings
'Handel: Harpsichord Suites' (CDD22045)
Handel: Harpsichord Suites
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Track 20 on CDD22045 CD2 [3'33] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)

Fugue or Voluntary No 5 in A minor, HWV609
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Fugue No 5 in A minor proves to be perilous, and also magnificent. The key was traditionally prone to melancholia, a quality preserved in Mozart’s wondrous A minor Rondo. This fugue is still in common time, but Handel, for the first time in the cycle, gives it a tempo directive (Largo), which may indicate that its outlandish subject – with falling major seventh, falling diminished seventh, and declining chromatics – should be accorded physical weight and moral gravitas; only thus will we survive the desperate chromatics which threaten to engulf us. If A major is a key of youth and jollity, this A minor is indeed its opposite, a key through which Handel precariously navigates by way of an imperturbable pulse and a defined tonal frame into which the chromatics (just) fit. This fugue subject bears a significant resemblance to that of the ‘And with his stripes’ fugue from Messiah. Handel is unlikely to be equating himself, or even mankind as a whole, with Christ, but is rather making a comment on the slings and arrows of a fortune unarguably outrageous.

from notes by Wilfrid Mellers © 1995

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