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Continuo Realization in Handel's Vocal Music [Paperback]

Patrick J. Rogers

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Book Description

April 15 2010 Studies in Music (University of Rochester Press) (Book 104)
This pioneering study examines aspects of figured bass notation and continuo realization in the High Baroque, especially with respect to the operas and oratorios of G. F. Handel. Contemporary treatises, Handel's manuscripts, original performance material, and other early sources provide clarification and guidance for the modern performer. Part one is an overview of figured bass in Handel source materials: autograph manuscripts, performing scores, original keyboard parts, 18th century scribal copies, and early editions. Part two treats in depth continuo realization problems that are often overlooked and can be troublesome in modern performances. The author defines the most common bass patterns, or formula-progressions, in Handel's music, together with the precise harmony the composer intended. The author attempts to show that continuo figuring can serve different functions depending on context. Much of the figuring that comes down to us in secondary sources may derive from the composer, or it may reflect valid contemporary practice. Modern editions, in the main, are too selective in this regard: they only include bass figuring from primary sources, leaving the modern performer frequently without sufficient guidance in the continuo part to improvise a stylistic accompaniment. Appendices include brief examples of continuo realization by Handel.BR> Patrick J. Rogers is an active keyboard player and former Fulbright Scholar who studied Handel under Theodor Göllner, Roland Jackson, Terence Best, and the late J. Merrill Knapp.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: University of Rochester Press (April 15 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580463614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580463614
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 Kg

Product Description


A major contribution to the study of Handel's music (which) illuminates an important area of performance practice...(written) with the force of one who knows the music, recent trends in performance, the sources and the treatises well. --THE AMERICAN ORGANIST (William Gudger) Thorough and well-written . . . a study (of) depth. clarity, and elegance. . . --AMERICAN HANDEL SOCIETY NEWSLETTER (Nicolas McGegan) Cultivates a hitherto untilled field and offers keenly thought-provoking interpretations. --HISTORICAL PERFORMANCE (Lowell Lindgren)

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Musicological Study but Hoped for More Practical Examples Jan. 6 2013
By Richard Kram - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A truly excellent musicological study of the use and practice of figured bass in Handel's music and other music of the period. Obviously much time was spent researching sources. However, if you are interested in buying this book as a practical guide for how Handel may have actually used thorough-bass and are looking for written out examples of how Handel may have improvised in terms of melodic and rhythmic accompaniment, the book is somewhat lacking here (my main reason for buying it).

My interest is in the practical application and creation of the continuo, not so much the musicological discussions of whether this or that may or may not have been done (which makes up a large portion of the book, and is important). Much time is spent on discussion and use of the figures themselves. Not much on the application of creating the actual continuo parts. If you are buying this book to learn how to create continuo parts in the style of Handel, you may be disappointed. If you are buying this book to learn of the history and application of figures in Handel's music, you will be delighted.

To be fair there are some sections that do address important considerations for practical use and certainly the book is more than worth is price for this information, but it is information on what techniques to use or not use in certain situations, not information on how to create it. From the practical side (without giving away content) here are some important areas covered (in no particular order) in the book that will be of great use to anyone (like me) who plays and writes continuo parts for editions of Baroque music.

1. Where Handel may have used figures that are not meant be played and where figures are expected to be added. And importantly some Handel sources to go to that are fully figured (some meant for teaching) so you can see what Handel's full figured scores look like.

2. To foreshorten cadences or not and other discussion of cadences and what Handel likely did versus Bach and Telemann.

3. When to add more complicated right hand material and related sources.

4. Continuo in unison sections (which Handel used extensively for musical effect)

5. Some tips on continuo in recitative. When to add arpeggios. Where to use cadence types, etc. But not nearly enough here on how to actually create the continuo for Handel recitative. Though this is likely a large book in and of itself.

6. Discussions of playing in the right hand over rests. When it was and was not acceptable to play continuo with pedal points.

7. Some discussion of common harmonic progressions in Handel's continuo parts. (Fully written out examples would have been nice here).

The fully written out Telemann examples are very instructive (though meant for pedagogical use and I assume Telemann would actually have added a lot more melodic complexity when playing).

In the end, this is a must source to own for anyone interested in Handel's music and continuo in Handel's vocal works in particular, but I wish more examples of fully written out parts were given and especially more discussion and thinking on what Handel may have actually done when playing continuo from the compositional perspective. That is the most challenging aspect to continuo, not playing chords. What melodic and rhythmic material were actually added in the right hand (and maybe also the left) to enhance the music in different situations?

Far too many written out continuo parts are just regurgitating chords. I'd rather see no written out part than this in editions. Handel and Bach must have created wonderfully complicated continuo parts at times. The musical community needs more information in that area, assuming sources exist to support it (like Bach's written out sonata accompaniments). Are there similar examples that can be used for Handel's music to get a better feel for what he actually did? For example, some study of Handel's keyboard works to get a feel for how those techniques may have been applied to continuo. Dr. Rogers - Volume 2 on this subject please!!!

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