George Frideric Handel

Chaconne in G major

HWV435 • “Suite No.2”

About this work

Contemporary publications of Handel's keyboard suites fall into groups, a set of eight published in London in 1720, and a further group, also consisting of eight sonatas, which appeared in 1733. The latter was printed by the London publisher John Walsh, apparently without Handel's authorization, and no doubt with a mind to the great success achieved by the 1720 set in the ever increasing market for domestic music. The best-known work included in this second set is in fact not a multi-movement suite, but a Chaconne in G succeeded by twenty-one variations. The principle of using a chaconne bass-pattern as the foundation to build a continuously developing series of variants is familiar from seventeenth-century keyboard music, and such movements were frequently used as the culmination of a suite of dances or even as a grand concluding gesture to round off a group of suites. The descending four-note bass pattern Handel employed here goes back to one used by, among others, Purcell. It would also be employed in Bach's Goldberg Variations, and the great Chaconne in G with which the Viennese composer Gottlieb Muffat brought his outstanding set of harpsichord suites Componimenti Musicali to a conclusion. In keeping with the usual characteristics of such pieces, tension is gradually built by means of increasingly demanding writing.