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Silete venti, HWV242

composer
author of text

 
Silete venti was composed in London during the 1720s, some of its musical material being shared with the oratorio Esther, a Chandos Anthem and one of the B flat organ concertos. The instrumentation is economical with a pair of oboes and a bassoon added to the usual strings but the forces are employed imaginatively, the interweaving of lines, with and without the voice, ranking among the finest of Handel’s offerings. The sinfonia is in French overture style, proceeding into a triple-metre section with the depiction of turbulent winds being silenced by the entry of the voice—hence the title of the motet. Such power in the gift of a singer, and the effect is arresting. Indeed this introduction to the voice appears to have the orchestra submit and become breathless—rests are used in a most adventurous, rhetorical manner for the period of composition and, like the rather flowery poetry, possesses an Italian, heart-on-sleeve expressiveness. This is far from a routine example of word-setting. The stamina and flexibility demanded by Handel suggest that this substantial solo Latin motet was intended for an accomplished star of stage or oratorio and it was perhaps composed with an eye to his return trip to Italy in 1729. The text blurs the conventional distinctions between descriptions of divine love and a somewhat carnal slant to some of the exhortations to the Saviour. Furthermore, there is a more athletic and dramatic slant to the vocal style than his more conservative output, a little as we have come to expect from solo vocal writing by Vivaldi and Monteverdi.

The initial calming of the winds is a remarkable unfurling of the tension of the stormy writing of the opening, reducing the energy of the music in a manner which suggests future depictions of nature by Haydn. The aria 'Dulcis amor' is a soothing dialogue between voice and instruments—classic, noble Handel in brilliant word-setting. An accompanied recitative 'O fortunata' separates this from the second, Andante-allegro-andante aria 'Date serta', whose rapid central section, again in a contrasting triple time, gives the listener a taste of the joy of the Alleluia as the winds rouse themselves once more. It might be the use of a walking bass in both of the arias which lends such an unmistakably Handelian dignity to the music. The final paean of just one word Alleluia allows the voice to have the upper hand of athleticism over the players, throwing in a high B at the end of the race.

from notes by Greg Murray © 2018

Recordings

Handel: Silete venti; Vivaldi: Nulla in mundo pax sincera
Studio Master: SIGCD537Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

No 1. Sinfonia e recitativo: Silete venti, nolite murmurare
Track 1 on SIGCD537 [5'23] Download only
No 2. Aria: Dulcis amor, Jesu care
Track 2 on SIGCD537 [7'21] Download only
No 3. Accompagnato: O fortunata anima
Track 3 on SIGCD537 [0'36] Download only
No 4. Aria: Date serta, date flores
Track 4 on SIGCD537 [9'53] Download only
No 5: Alleluia
Track 5 on SIGCD537 [3'14] Download only

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