Concerto Grosso No.8

George Frideric Handel

Concerto Grosso No.8 in C minor

HWV326, Op. 6/8

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 is the only concerto in the collection that has no fugue. It begins with a breezy Allemande in which the bass line replies actively and sometimes imitatively to the violin melody in a movement that takes several unexpected melodic and harmonic turns. The two groups of ripieno violins dialogue with each other at several points in this movement that has no concertino passages.

The subsequent grave seems to grope for direction as its tightly imitative voices move forward in both the concertino and ripieno. The concertino instruments step out with strong individual lines after some imposing ripieno chords and soon shade back into full ensemble. The movement ends on a half-cadence that points to the subsequent Andante allegro, an intense, rather nervous, and somewhat concerned movement that proceeds over pulsing continuo lines. The concertino steps forward with strong independent parts for its instruments which often throw motifs back and forth among themselves. This movement features some prominent sequential passages.

The subsequent Adagio moves cautiously in triple time and features some nudgy harmonic turns in a movement with no passages that highlight the solo group.

The concertino begins the subsequent Siciliana (marked Andante for tempo) and often alternates with the ripieno as music progresses with a pastoral feel that is not entirely relaxed. The concluding Allegro (with no concertino passages) steps cautiously toward the end.