Concerto Grosso No.6

George Frideric Handel

Concerto Grosso No.6 in G minor

HWV324, Op. 6/6

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 to double the ripieno violins.

Much of the music in this concerto is thrustingly dramatic. The opening Larghetto affettuoso is a stately, affective movement in 3/2 in which the concertino steps forward as a unit for some short passages. A half-cadence leads to the subsequent A tempo giusto, a fugue with no concertino passages whose tone provides an apt follow-through to the first movement and whose chromatically-driven subject seems to be at a loss for direction.

The third movement, a musette that is marked Larghetto for tempo, holds forth in the major mode with relaxed and expansive motivically driven melody lines. The concertino frequently steps forward as a unit in dialogue with the ripieno. There is a faster and determined minor-mode middle section that recalls the concerto's latent dramatic concerns, and ultimately a reprise of the musette. There are no concertino passages in these last two sections.

The minor-mode Allegro that follows is straightforward and determined, featuring a melody in first violins that is punctuated by the other instruments. The two solo violins step forward as individuals, sometimes with virtuosic figurations.

The concluding Allegro dances along in a lighter mood than the preceeding movements in spite its minor modality. The melody in the first violins is punctuated by the other instruments, and there are no concertino passages.