The Brook Street Band

The Brook Street Band

Handelís Lost English Cantatas
Performed on period instruments

An exciting discovery for Handelís Commemorative Year, 2009

During 2009, THE BROOK STREET BAND, with singers Nicki Kennedy (Soprano)and Sally Bruce-Payne (alto), will give recitals of three superb English Cantatas not performed together since Handelís time . The Band has just released its latest CD, Handel English Cantatas (AVIE Records), with world premiere recordings of these rare works, together with the first ever published edition of these cantatas.

Tatty Theo, acclaimed cellist and Handel scholar, and founder of THE BROOK STREET BAND, has researched the lost manuscripts, which were an amazing discovery.

Handelís Italian cantatas, composed mainly in Italy, 1707-10, are very well known. Once he had settled in England, Handel moved on to other genres, writing only the occasional Italian cantata, as this language was becoming unfashionable with English audiences.

Handelís English Cantatas: new incarnations for familiar melodies

Although most of Handelís English cantatas were not assembled until the 1730s, they all use popular arias from his most fashionable operas: Flavio and Ottone (composed 1723) and Giulio Cesare (1724). Written English did not come naturally to Handel, so he used a number of librettists. All the new texts have been written by unidentified authors, in a pastoral vein. They express the trials, tribulations and complications of love.

Each cantata provides wave after wave of top quality Handel, made all the more glorious by hearing it in a new incarnation. In each case the music has been pared down, and there is an almost total lack of recitative. What remains is the truly wonderful melody. Nothing from the original arias has been lost, despite condensed instrumental scoring. Perhaps it is because some of the arias are amongst Handelís most well-known, that the ear supplies a Ďmissingí horn texture, for example, even though the line of music has now been given to a violin. Many of the keys of the original arias have been changed and The Brook Street Band has deduced the voice type, from the range of the vocal line and the text.

Although none of the known sources for Handelís English cantatas are in his hand, Tatty Theo is convinced of their authenticity, having looked in detail at the background to these works. In fact, a number of Handelís known works survive only in the hand of their first copyist (or first printed edition).

Photograph: Hayley Madden