Concerto Grosso No.4

George Frideric Handel

Concerto Grosso No.4 in A minor

HWV322, Op. 6/4

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.

In the opening Largo affetuoso (a movement with no concertino passages) a group of ripieno violins presents a mildly plaintive melody that progresses with stately dignity over a steady eighth-note accompaniment. The movement ends with a half-cadence that points to the subsequent Allegro, a straightforward and somewhat concerned fugue in which the solo violins or the entire concertino step forward with brief statements.

Ths next two movements proceed with a contemplative and rather detached tone in a somewhat austere (though not uncomfortably so) emotional atmosphere. The Largo e piano that comes third moves with the texture of a trio sonata in which the two groups of ripieno violins answer each other as their lines intertwine over a walking bass. It ends on a half-cadence that points to the concluding Allegro, a bustling finale that exudes a good measure of contentment and features short pronouncements from the solo violins.