Organ Concerto No.13

George Frideric Handel

Organ Concerto No.13 in F major

HWV295 • “Cuckoo & the Nightingale”

About this work

Handel's 14 authentic organ concertos fall into three "sets," the first comprising six concertos published by John Walsh in London in 1738 as Op. 4, the second including the unpublished Concertos in F, HWV 295, and D minor, HWV 304, while a third set consists of a further six concertos published posthumously in 1761 as Op. 7. Like the set of 12 Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, Handel composed all his organ concertos for theater performance at his oratorios, generally to coincide with the first night of a new work. The keyboard concerto was a relative novelty in Handel's day (but his concertos inspired numerous imitations among native composers), and Handel discovered that his renown as an organ virtuoso was an added and powerful draw to audiences in his oratorio seasons. The present Concerto in F, known in some editions as No. 13, was completed on April 2, 1739, and played by Handel two days later at the first performance of his oratorio Israel in Egypt, given at the King's Theatre, the London home of Italian opera. Like most of the organ concertos, it is scored for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo in addition to solo organ. There are four movements. The first, a Larghetto, and the fourth, an Allegro, are based on movements from the Trio Sonata, Op. 5, No. 6, composed the previous year. Between these come an Allegro whose bird song motifs have given the concerto its nickname "Cuckoo and the Nightingale," and another Larghetto in siciliano rhythm. It seems that Handel originally intended to include an extemporized ad libitum movement of the kind that appears in many of the later published concertos, but subsequently changed his mind. Perhaps because of its nickname, and surely because of the engaging, charming, and vigorous music, the F major has become the most popular of Handel's organ concertos.