The Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, or Twelve Grand Concertos, HWV 319–330, are 12 concerti grossi by George Frideric Handel for a concertino trio of two violins and violoncello and a ripieno four-part string orchestra with harpsichord continuo.


The Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, or Twelve Grand Concertos, HWV 319–330, are 12 concerti grossi by George Frideric Handel for a concertino trio of two violins and violoncello and a ripieno four-part string orchestra with harpsichord continuo. First published by subscription in London by John Walsh in 1739, in the second edition of 1741 they became Handel's Opus 6. Taking the older concerto da chiesa and concerto da camera of Arcangelo Corelli as models, rather than the later three-movement Venetian concerto of Antonio Vivaldi favoured by Johann Sebastian Bach, they were written to be played during performances of Handel's oratorios and odes. Despite the conventional model, Handel incorporated in the movements the full range of his compositional styles, including trio sonatas, operatic arias, French overtures, Italian sinfonias, airs, fugues, themes and variations and a variety of dances. The concertos were largely composed of new material: they are amongst the finest examples in the genre of baroque concerto grosso.

The Musette, or rather chaconne, in this Concerto, was always in favour with the composer himself, as well as the public; for I well remember that HANDEL frequently introduced it between the parts of his Oratorios, both before and after publication. Indeed no instrumental composition that I have ever heard during the long favour of this, seemed to me more grateful and pleasing, particularly, in subject.

— Charles Burney, writing of the performance of the sixth Grand Concerto at the Handel Commemoration, 1784

History and origins

This Day are Publish'd, Proposals of Printing by Subscription, With His Royal Majesty's Royal License and Protection, Twelve Grand Concerto's, in Seven Parts, for four Violins, a Tenor, a Violoncello, with a Thorough-Bass for the Harpsichord. Compos'd by Mr. Handel.

1. The Price to Subscribers is Two Guineas, One Guinea to be paid at the Time of Subscribing, and the other on Delivery of the Books.

2. The whole will be engraven in a neat Character, printed on Good Paper, and ready to deliver to Subscribers by April next.

3. The Subscribers Names will be printed before the Work.

Subscriptions are taken by the Author, at his Home in Brook's-street, Hanover square; and John Walsh in Catherine-street in the Strand.

London Daily Post, 29 October 1739

In 1735 Handel had started to incorporate organ concertos into performances of his oratorios. By showcasing himself as composer-performer, he could provide an attraction to match the Italian castrati of the rival company, the Opera of the Nobility. These concertos formed the basis of the Handel organ concertos Op.4, published by John Walsh in 1738.

The first and the last of these six concertos, HWV 289 and HWV 294, were originally written in 1736 to be performed during Alexander's Feast, Handel's setting of John Dryden's ode Alexander's Feast or The Power of Musick — the former for chamber organ and orchestra, the latter for harp, strings and continuo. In addition in January 1736 Handel composed a short and lightweight concerto grosso for strings in C major, HWV 318, traditionally referred to as the "Concerto in Alexander's Feast", to be played between the two acts of the ode. Scored for string orchestra with solo parts for two violins and violoncello, it had four movements and was later published in Walsh's collection Select Harmony of 1740. Its first three movements (allegro, largo, allegro) have the form of a contemporary Italian concerto, with alternation between solo and tutti passages. The less conventional fourth movement, marked andante, non presto, is a charming and stately gavotte with elegant variations for the two violins.

Because of changes in popular tastes, the season in 1737 had been disastrous for both the Opera of the Nobility and Handel's own company, which by that time he managed single-handedly. At the close of the season Handel suffered a form of physical and mental breakdown, which resulted in paralysis of the fingers on one hand. Persuaded by friends to take the waters at Aix-la-Chapelle, he experienced a complete recovery. Henceforth, with the exception of Giove in Argo (1739), Imeneo (1740) and Deidamia (1741), he abandoned Italian opera in favour of the English oratorio, a new musical genre that he was largely responsible for creating. The year 1739 saw the first performance of his great oratorio Saul, his setting of John Dryden's Ode for St Cecilia's Day and the revival of his pastoral English opera or serenata Acis and Galatea. In the previous year he had produced the choral work Israel in Egypt and in 1740 he composed L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, a cantata-like setting of John Milton's poetry.

For the 1739–1740 season at the Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre, Handel composed Twelve Grand Concertos to be performed during intervals in these masques and oratorios, as a feature to attract audiences: forthcoming performances of the new concertos were advertised in the London daily papers. Following the success of his organ concertos Op.4, his publisher John Walsh had encouraged Handel to compose a new set of concertos for purchase by subscription under a specially acquired Royal License. There were just over 100 subscribers, including members of the royal family, friends, patrons, composers, organists and managers of theatres and pleasure-gardens, some of whom bought multiple sets for larger orchestral forces. Handel's own performances usually employed two continuo instruments, either two harpsichords or a harpsichord and a chamber organ; some of the autograph manuscripts have additional parts appended for oboes, the extra forces available for performances during oratorios. Walsh had himself very successfully sold his own 1715 edition of Corelli's celebrated Twelve concerti grossi Op.6, first published posthumously in Amsterdam in 1714. The later choice of the same opus number for the second edition of 1741, the number of concertos and the musical form cannot have been entirely accidental; more significantly Handel in his early years in Rome had encountered and fallen under the influence of Corelli and the Italian school. The twelve concertos were produced in a space of five weeks in late September and October 1739, with the dates of completion recorded on all but No.9. The ten concertos of the set that were largely newly composed were first heard during performance of oratorios later in the season. The two remaining concertos were reworkings of organ concertos, HWV 295 in F major (nicknamed "the Cuckoo and the Nightingale" because of the imitations of birdsong in the organ part) and HWV 296 in A major, both of which had already been heard by London audiences earlier in 1739. In 1740 Walsh published his own arrangements for solo organ of these two concertos, along with arrangements of four of the Op.6 concerti grossi (Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 10).

The composition of the concerti grossi, however, because of the unprecedented period of time laid aside for their composition, seem to have been a conscious effort by Handel to produce a set of orchestral "masterpieces" for general publication: a response and homage to the ever-popular concerti grossi of Corelli as well as a lasting record of Handel's own compositional skills. Despite the conventionality of the Corellian model, the concertos are extremely diverse and in parts experimental, drawing from every possible musical genre and influenced by musical forms from all over Europe.

The ten concertos that had been newly composed (all those apart from Nos. 9 and 11) received their premières during the performances of oratorios and odes during the winter season 1739–1740, as evidenced by contemporary advertisements in the London daily papers. Two were performed on November 22, St Cecilia's Day, during performances of Alexander's Feast and Ode for St Cecilia's Day; two more on December 13 and another four on February 14. Two concertos were heard at the first performance of L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato at the end of February; and two more in March and early April during revivals of Saul and Israel in Egypt. The final pair of concertos were first played during a performance of L'Allegro on April 23, just two days after the official publication of the set.


HWV Opus Key Composed Movements
319 Opus 6 No. 1 G major 29 September 1739 i. A tempo giusto - ii. Allegro - iii. Adagio - iv. Allegro - v. Allegro
320 Opus 6 No. 2 F major 4 October 1739 i. Andante larghetto - ii. Allegro - iii. Largo - iv. Allegro, ma non troppo
321 Opus 6 No. 3 E minor 6 October 1739 i. Larghetto - ii. Andante - iii. Allegro - iv. Polonaise - v. Allegro, ma non troppo
322 Opus 6 No. 4 A minor 8 October 1739 i. Larghetto affetuoso - ii. Allegro - iii. Largo, e piano - iv. Allegro
323 Opus 6 No. 5 D major 10 October 1739 i. Ouverture - ii. Allegro - iii. Presto - iv. Largo - v. Allegro - vi. Menuet
324 Opus 6 No. 6 G minor 15 October 1739 i. Larghetto e affetuoso - ii. Allegro, ma non troppo - iii. Musette - iv. Allegro - v. Allegro
325 Opus 6 No. 7 B-flat major 12 October 1739 i. Largo - ii. Allegro - iii. Largo, e piano - iv. Andante - v. Hornpipe
326 Opus 6 No. 8 C minor 18 October 1739 i. Allemande - ii. Grave - iii. Andante allegro - iv. Adagio - v. Siciliana - vi. Allegro
327 Opus 6 No. 9 F major 26 October 1739 (?) i. Largo - ii. Allegro - iii. Larghetto - iv. Allegro - v. Menuet - vi. Gigue
328 Opus 6 No. 10 D minor 22 October 1739 i. Ouverture - ii. Air - iii. Allegro - iv. Allegro - v. Allegro moderato
329 Opus 6 No. 11 A major 30 October 1739 i. Andante larghetto, e staccato - ii. Allegro - iii. Largo, e staccato - iv. Andante - v. Allegro
330 Opus 6 No. 12 B minor 20 October 1739 i. Largo - ii. Allegro - iii. Larghetto, e piano - iv. Largo - v. Allegro


  • Op. 6 No.1 The first movement was a complete reworking of a first draft of the overture for Imeneo, Handel's penultimate Italian opera, composed over a prolonged period from 1738 to 1740. In an influential study, musicologist Alexander Silbiger argues that in the last movement, "beginning with the opening figure, there is a series of almost literal quotations from the Sonata no. 2" of the Essercizi Gravicembalo of Domenico Scarlatti, which had been published in London in 1738-39.
  • Op. 6 No.2 Newly composed.
  • Op. 6 No.3 Newly composed.
  • Op. 6 No.4 Mostly newly composed. the final allegro is a reworking of the aria È si vaga in preparation for Imeneo.
  • Op. 6 No.5 Movements i, ii and vi are taken from the Ode for St Cecilia's Day. The first movement is derived from the Componimenti Musicali (1739) for harpsichord by Gottlieb Muffat and the fifth from the twenty third sonata in Domenico Scarlatti's Essercizi Gravicembalo (1738).
  • Op. 6 No.6 Newly composed.
  • Op. 6 No.7 Newly composed, except for the final hornpipe derived from Muffat's Componimenti Musicali.
  • Op. 6 No.8 The allemande is a reworking of the first movement of Handel's second harpsichord suite from his third set (No. 16), HWV 452, in G minor. Andrew Manze notes that its first bar "is a direct transposition of the opening bar of one of Johann Mattheson's Pièces de clavecin," and speculates "Perhaps, it is meant as a salute to an old friend, teacher and dueling partner" The 4-note figure used in the third movement goes back to a quartet from Handel's opera Agrippina. In the fourth movement Handel quotes the opening ritornello of Cleopatra's aria Piangerò la sorte mia from the third act of his opera Giulio Cesare. In the fifth movement Handel uses material from the discarded aria "Love from such a parent born" from Saul.
  • Op. 6 No.9 The first movement was newly composed. The second and third movements are reworkings of the first two movements organ concerto in F major, HWV 295, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale". The fourth and fifth movements are taken from the overture to Imeneo. The theme of the Gigue is "thematically reminiscent of the Giga in Arcangelo Corelli's Concerto Grosso No. 12" of the Twelve concerti grossi, Op. 6 (Corelli)" - the model for Handel's op. 6.
  • Op. 6 No.10 Newly composed.
  • Op. 6 No.11 A reworking of Handel's organ concerto in A major, HWV 296. Handel borrowed the third-movement (Andante)'s melodic material from the opening of the Third Sonata of the Frische Clavier Früchte of Johann Kuhnau, published originally in 1696 but reprinted four other times, including in 1724.
  • Op. 6 No.12 Mostly newly composed. The subject of the final fugue is derived from a fugue by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, Handel's music teacher.
亨德尔 - 大协奏曲12首 Op.6
Composer: Handel 1739-1740
Opus/Catalogue Number:Op.6
Duration: 2:40:00 ( Average )
Genre :Concerto Grosso


Update Time:2018-06-21 23:48