Concerto Grosso No.1

George Frideric Handel

Concerto Grosso No.1 in G major

HWV319, Op. 6/1

About this work

This work is one of a series of twelve dashing and elegant concerti grossi in which Handel explores kaleidoscopically shifting relationships among the instruments of a string orchestra. In consonance with the traditions of concerto grosso style he exploits the contrast between a small concertino (group of solo instruments) and a larger ripieno (orchestral complement). Throughout this cycle the concertino features two violins, a cello, and a chordal continuo instrument, and the ripieno comprises larger groups of violins and violas along with a continuo usually played by cellos, string basses, and one or several chordal instruments. This concerto can be played with optional oboes that show up occasionally, mostly to double the ripieno violins.

A stately strut and swagger inform most of the initial A tempo giusto through its pompous and proclamatory opening idea and a lyrically sustained foil. The two solo violins dialogue with each other in the concertino passages, and some quiet chords for the ripieno go on some intriguing harmonic excursions in the last part of the movement, eventually arriving at a half-cadence that points to the subsequent Allegro which is a stately and bustling affair driven by rapidly repeated notes in the accompaniments and some in the melodic lines themselves.

There follow an elegantly singing Adagio that makes poignant use of suspensions and eventually lands on a half-cadence; an Allegro that begins with the two solo violins starting off a perky fugue (the ripieno comes in on the third entry) and ends with a skittishly quiet phrase that thumbs its nose at the imperious cadence that preceeds it; and an infectiously high-spirited allegro finale that dances energetically in triple meter.