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Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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It is plausible that the unusually long six-movement overture to the London opera Il pastor fido might have originated as an independent orchestral suite written for the Hanover court written in 1711–12 (i.e. the longest period Handel spent in Hanover, between his two trips to England). It comprises a superb French-style overture followed by five contrasting movements, and no other overture for any of Handel’s operas (and oratorios) for London is so elaborate and extended. The eighteenth-century music historian Charles Burney praised it as ‘one of the most masterly and pleasing of the kind’. There is an elegant flow between finely crafted fast and quick movements, and the music contains plenty of prominent woodwind writing: the gorgeous seven-part ‘Largo’ in F major has a trio of oboes and bassoon, and the plaintive ‘Adagio’ in D minor is a tender dialogue between solo oboe and violin (all elements similar to those we find in Apollo e Dafne).
Silvio: Sol nel mezzo risona del core Non già con amore, Ma ne’ campi le belve a pugnar.
Grand’ ardir, che il pargoletto La costanza del mio petto Col suo strale vuol sfidar.
Silvio: The very core of my heart calls me; not with love though, but rather to do battle with the beasts in the fields.
What great audacity for the little Cupid to try to threaten the constancy in my breast with his arrows!
Within two weeks of Beard’s official release from the Chapel Royal choir he was appearing in a Handel opera at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, singing the role of Silvio in a revival of Il pastor fido on 9 October 1734. This had originally been Handel’s second London opera, premièred at the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket on 22 November 1712, and based on a well-known pastoral poem by Giovanni Battista Guarini. The role of Silvio—summarised by Charles Burney as “a gay frolicksome swain, much fonder of field-sports than the society of females”—had originally been written for an alto castrato, and this voice-type was retained when the opera was revised and revived in May 1734. However, the inclusion of the eighteen-year-old Beard in the cast for the November 1743 revival necessitated some alterations to the role. Silvio’s first and third arias were replaced by alternative ones, while the Act Two aria “Sol nel mezzo risona del core” was transposed down a fourth and the violin part entirely removed, affording the music a greater freedom and intimacy.