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01 March 2019

41. audacity

I recently came across Richard Egarrs recordings of the Handel organ concertospieces I have known for decades, but that I learned first from the recordings of E. Power Biggs (with Adrian Boult) and Simon Preston (with Trevor Pinnock).  Much as I respect and enjoy Biggs and Preston, the Egarr recordings have a impetuous audacity that strives to emulate the (basically unwritten) example of the composer.

To take only the most striking example, at the end of the second movement of Op. 7 no. 4, where Handels instruction reads merely Organo ad libitum, Egarr uses that rarest of intervals, the doubly-augmented unison/octave, to effect the modulation from D to F major, for his interpolated slow improvisation.
SOURCE:  my transcription of this moment (the transition from Track 15 to 16) on disc I of Egarrs recordings of Handel's Op. 7 (and more) with the Academy of Ancient Music; Harmonia Mundi HMU 807447.48 (2009).  The recording is streamed on Spotify here.
I spell it thus (D-sharp against D-flat) because that is how these notes are functioning:  chromatic side-steps up from D to E and down from D to C.  The resulting passing dissonance should not be spelled as a diminished third (which would indicate converging rather than expanding motion); a major second would be meaningless.  Audacious is the only word.  The interval is not part of Handels musical style, but it has the (I think) appropriate consequence of directing the spotlight onto the soloist.  What will he do next?

Handel himself seems to have relished the spotlight:  he used his organ concertos mainly in performances of his oratorios, where during the breaks between sections he could have all the attention to himself.  But he wasnt above stealing the show from his highly-paid vocal soloists.  His first London opera, Rinaldo (1711) includes a remarkable moment at the end of Act II when Handel apparently wanted to divert the attention at least temporarily from the stage to the pit.  His autograph of the aria Vo far guerra has disappeared, but the early copies indicate that in the opening ritornello there was to be an extended extempore passage for harpsichord (Cembalo), for the composer himself to display his gifts:
SOURCE:  Opening of Vo far guerra (Rinaldo, Act II) in a copyist’s manuscript held by the British Library (f. 91r of R.M. 19.d.5); scanned from Graham Pont, “Handel versus Domenico Scarlatti:  music of an historic encounter” in Göttiger Händel-Beiträge IV (1991), p. 234.
Susan McClary famously characterized the texture of the first movement of Bachs fifth Brandenburg concerto as one in which the harpsichord, which first serves as continuo support then begins to compete with the other soloists for attention, and finally overthrows the other forces in a kind of hijacking of the piece [p. 28].  How much more audacious was it for Handel to upstage the singer of an aria, left lingering on stage while the composer showed off?  The aria includes collaborative passages in which the soloist and the harpsichord run in parallel as a sort of duet, and where Signora Pilotti (for whom this aria was written) holds a note for several bars while a harpsichord obbligato is conspicuously busy underneath, but there is another totally free sectionleft to the discretion of the soloistin the closing ritornello, while again the singer is left at loose ends on stage.  Moreover, as it is a da capo aria, all this happens twice (with, presumably, different extemporizations). 

We do not know what Handel played in these ad libitum episodes, but I expect they could not have been lasted very long, as otherwise there would surely be some press comment.  The Spectator famously lampooned the first production of Rinaldo, but no mention is made of excessive keyboard virtuosity in those reviews.  Perhaps later in the run the solos became more extended and showy; certainly theres no reason to assume that he always played the same thing.

When Chrysander published Rinaldo in the old complete works (HG vol. 58 in 1874), he had the portions of the autograph preserved in the Royal Music Library, and copies like that above, and so his edition has the same Cembalo instruction with no indication of what to play.  After doing a little more legwork and tracking down more sources, he published Rinaldo again (HG vol. 58 [bis] in 1894), including both the 1711 and 1731 versions.  Vo far guerra was cut from the 1731 version, but for the 1711 version this time Chrysander added an appendix with a complete realization of the harpsichord solo:
SOURCE:  detail of revised edition of HG vol. 58 (1894), p. 117; from IMSLP #18974
If we look up the aria in the new HHA volume presenting the 1711 version of Rinaldo, an almost identical realization is given not in an appendix but in the main textwithout even a footnote to indicate that its source is not easily authenticated.  One has to look elsewhere in these scholarly editions to find that the Harpsichord piece performd by Mr Hendel comes from a keyboard arrangement, Songs in the Opera of Rinaldo; this was originally published by John Walsh in the weeks after the February premiere (and a scan of that first edition is available as IMSLP #71438), but this elaborate keyboard part for Vo far guerra materialized only in a later printing (with a new title page Arie dellopera di Rinaldo, apparently June 1711).

What originally prompted me to look at all of this for this post was finding a seminar paper I had written in graduate school that was comparing these keyboard passages with those found in Handels organ concertos, essentially arguing that all of this could easily be cobbled together from the figuration of Handels other bravura works.  (Ive scanned some of my examples for that paper here.)  Now the glaringly obvious problem with my thesis is that all of my Handel examples post-date these Rinaldo performances by at least two decades; I picked the wrong music for comparison.  Handel had written a concertante part for organ in his Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (Rome, c. 1707), but its not all that much like the published Rinaldo solos; the closest comparison would be his Sonata for Harpsichord with Double Keys (HWV 579), which Terence Best dates to c. 1707-08 [p. 125].  Best argues that BWV 579 has no connection with Walshs Rinaldo realizations.  In that the text is different, Best is correct; but the similar figuration at least shows that Handelian origins of the latter are plausible.
SOURCE:  cropped scan of the beginning of HWV 579 as given in HHA Ser. IV Bd. 6, p. 80
There is no reason to assume that Handel ever notated the Rinaldo cadenzas; particularly as he apparently had no professional relationship at this time with the publisher, John Walsh, it is much more likely that another hand supplied these keyboard passages.  The scribe seems to have been William Babell (c. 16901723), who would have heard Handels original performances at first hand, as he was a violinist in the Kings Theatre where Rinaldo was produced.  Babell was much more widely known in his short life as a keyboardistindeed, this reputation was strong enough that Johann Mattheson would cite him in 1739 as possibly the greatest organist of the age.  Here is the relevant bit of Matthesons Der Vollkommene Capellmeister (as translated in Deutsch):
SOURCE:  cropped scan of Deutsch, Handel:  A Documentary Biography, p. 485, with a portion of Mattheson.
Even though Mattheson never heard Babell, this is a remarkable praise.  It is known that he studied with Johann Christoph Pepusch in London; that he studied under Handel is not certain, but he was clearly in Handels circle.  Moreover, in 1717 Walsh published his Suits of the most Celebrated Lessons Collected and Fitted to the Harpsicord or Spinnet by Mr. Wm. Babell with Variety of Passages by the Author.  This was a tremendously successful publication, and remained in print (from one pirated edition or another) throughout the eighteenth century.  Note the last item in the table of contents:
SOURCE:  cropped from (incomplete) scan available at archive.org.  A complete monochrome scan is available at IMSLP #279417.
The Vo far guerra in the Suits of Celebrated Lessons is considerably more elaborate than that published in Arie dellopera di Rinaldo a few years prior.  Graham Pont has probably devoted more attention than anyone else to the Handel/Babell connection, with several intriguing articles published over two decades.  From the first of these, he has contended that the substance of the harpsichord elaborations were Handels rather than Babells (and in subsequent articles he demonstrates that there were a number of copies of this made by people close to Handelalthough he also shows that the text kept changing).

We thus have several different versions of the keyboard cadenzas (for lack of a better word) for "Vo far guerra," from the rather tame but still dramatically intrusive version that Walsh published in about 1715 (and which has become the main text of the HHA, tacitly presenting it as the work of Handel himself) to the wildly fantastic version Babells Suits that was surely never intended for operatic performance, but rather uses Vo’ far guerra as the medium for a solo keyboard showpiece.  Chrysander published itor one version of itin HG vol. 48, and it must be some of the most visually-stimulating pages in the whole of that monumental edition:
SOURCE cropped from IMSLP #18931 scan of HG vol. 48, p. 242 ; but there's much more where this came from.
Gotta love that beaming!

If the original aria wasnt audacious enough, this blows it out of the water completely, with a variety of special effects.  (Peter Holman, in a fascinating article that posits that Babell rather than Handel should get the credit for the first English keyboard concerto, characterizes Babell's music as a mixture of boldness and limited compositional technique; from my limited exposure to it, I have to agree.)  There are remarkable moments, to be sure.  Consider this compelling crescendodecrescendo effect, achieved by a thickening and subsiding of the texture:
SOURCE:  ibid., p. 239
Perhaps this conveys some element that originated with Handel.  (Perhaps.  I doubt it.  There is nothing else I know from his pen that is remotely like this.)  If so, I suspect that Babells audaciously over-extended cadenza strings together ideas that Handel might have used in different performances of Rinaldo, not ever intending them to go together, and connected by who-knows-what.  Another speculation occurs to me:  maybe Handel did not conduct all the performances, and Babell (who must have been the finest keyboard player in the orchestra) took over for the harpsichord solos, later reworking his ideas from those extemporizations into the work that was eventually published as a lesson.   (For a fine recording of Babells lesson, you cannot do better than Erin Helyard’s.)

For one more audacity, René Jacobss 2003 recording of Rinaldo (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901796.98) turns to the Babell lesson for inspiration for the harpsichord solos of “Vo’ far guerra” (starting about two minutes in).  I think this choice absolutely spoils the dramatic momentum that ends the actor rather, it redirects all attention to the pit.  (Forty-five percent of this track is taken up just by the cadenza after the singers last cadence.) I think this decision is a serious mistake, but I concede that at least
  1.  it makes the da capo different than the first time through, 
  2.  maybe this shifting of attention does less damage on a recording than a live performance, and 
  3.  it is audaciously well played.



01 February 2019

40. gestation


Any day now I expect to receive a delivery containing the fruition of a project I have been working on for nearly a decadeso long, in fact, that I thought it might be worth laying out a chronology, turning the accomplishment of many years / Into an hour-glass.  I have quoted Dorothy L. Sayers before on this blog; once again a passage from The Mind of the Maker comes to mind.  Having discussed the authors love of his [sic] creation, and the sacrifices made for it, Sayers remarks:
...[I]n times of national crisis and economic stringency the writer is often requested by his publisher to accept a reduced royalty on his forthcoming book (particularly if his message is held to be of value to the nation), on the ground of the increased cost of printing.’  The assumption is that, such is his eagerness to see his work published, he will readily cut his renumeration to the starvation line rather than deprive the world of the fruit of his toil.  But it is never suggested to the printer that he should have his wage reduced on account of the educational value of the book he is printing.  On the contrary, his wage is increased at the writers expense, though the increased cost of living affects them both alike.  Everybody takes this for granted. [p. 220]
And, a little later:
[The writer] is treated with ferocious injustice by the Treasury:  for if he spends six years in writing a book and at the end of the time receives a payment representing an advance on the next two years sales, that sum which represents eight years earnings is taxed as one years income.  [p. 223]
With these quotations I do not mean to suggest that I feel unfairly treated by my publisher.  Rather, that critical editions are usually multi-year projects, necessarily a labor of love, and not for those who can come up with anything better to be doing with their time.  For those in academic positions, it seems most promotion/tenure committees do not regard critical editing as sufficiently original to be valued as significant scholarly work.  Worse still, the sort of unfairness Sayers describes of the Inland Revenue is even worse in an academics Annual Performance Review:  while many different academic projects take years, mostwhether scientific laboratory research or data gathering and analysis or a humanities monographat least yield some substance that can be used for conference talks or provisional articles along the way.  It is the nature of an edition that its usually all-or-nothing:  until it is finished, there is very little to show for it about which a committee would care.

Ultimately, I suppose my project started in May 2009, when Christopher Scheer and Eric Saylor contacted me about writing a chapter for a book they were planning, to be titled The Sea in the British Musical Imagination.  (That book happened, published by Boydell & Brewer in December 2015.)  The chapter I proposed looked at musical characterization of British sailors from the 1870s into the 1920; among the works I wanted to consider were two orchestral song cycles by Charles Villiers Stanford:  Songs of the Sea (1904) and Songs of the Fleet (1910), both to texts of Henry Newbolt.  As I worked on my chapter (mainly in 2010-11), I was frustrated by the lack of any good editions of these works.  My only sources for the chapter were the published vocal scores of both works, and the 1905 published full score of Songs of the Sea; there was no published full score of Songs of the Fleet.

March 2012:  I pitched the idea of a new critical edition of both works to the music department at Oxford University Press (with whom I had been working on two volumes for their Walton critical edition, and because OUP was actively putting out editions of British musicparticularly Sullivan and Vaughan Williams).  OUP turned me down, as did Musica Britannica subsequently.  I was a little surprised, as these two piecesparticularly Songs of the Seahave a continuing presence in the British orchestral repertory.  They reveal Stanford at his most populist; he would certainly have regarded them as potboilers, necessary as he never had the financial security that his colleage Hubert Parry had enjoyed.  The award-winning 2006 recording by Gerald Finley (under Richard Hickox) brought renewed attention to these works, and he performed Songs of the Sea at the 2018 Last Night of the Proms.  Finley's superb performances notwithstanding, in my opinion the 1983 recording by Benjamin Luxon (under Norman Del Mar) is still finer; here’s a taste of it.

28 July 2012:  While at the meeting of the North American British Music Studies Association, I had an encouraging conversation with Pamela Whitcomb of A-R Editions.  They had recently published Stanfords Cello Concerto and I admired the quality of their work.  I knew it would be some time before I could get to work on the project (especially with two kids under three years old), but I added preparing a proposal to my to-do list.

28 March 2014:  I was in the UK for a reception to celebrate the completion of the William Walton Edition, and took an afternoon inspecting Stanfords autograph scores for both works at the Royal College of Music.  From what I saw, I knew that a critical edition was needed.  So I started gathering the necessary materials.  Thinking this would be an ideal sort of undergraduate research project, I also invited my student Edison Kang to join me as a coeditorwarning him that it would not be complete until years after his 2015 college graduation.

AprilOctober 2014:  During these months I was locating the rest of our primary sources and ordering scans of everything we would need.  By the time all was said and done, our primary source list amounted to:
  • Stanfords autograph full score and vocal score for both of the works (all four of these are held by the Royal College of Music)
  • A copyist’s full score of Songs of the Sea, made for Henry Wood, and much marked-up by him (held by the Royal Academy of Music); we knew this source probably existed, as Wood conducted the work in January 1905 before the work had been published in full score, so we looked for it among Woods scores at the RAM and there it was.
  • A copyist’s full score of Songs of the Fleet, made for the hire library of W. H. Paling & Co., who served as the Australian agent of the publisher Stainer & Bell (and now held by the National Library of Australia, and discovered fortuitously through worldcat.org despite some erroneous cataloguing).  These copyists scores helped to establish the text as it was before some revisions, as they were copied from the composers autograph scores very early.  (Following up on this Fleet score led me also to conductor Eugene Goossenss scandalous departure from Sydney.  You never know what will crawl out when you pick up an unfamiliar source!)
  • The 1904 published vocal score of Songs of the Sea
  • The 1905 published full score of Songs of the Sea
  • The 1910 published vocal score of Songs of the Fleet
  • The 1904-1905 printed parts of Songs of the Sea
  • I had borrowed the performing materials of Songs of the Fleet from ECS publishing (the US distributor for Stainer & Bell); these ultimately proved worthless for the edition, as all but the string parts were a mid-20th-century copy with no authority.  Still this led me to seek out the set of parts that would have been sent to Australia along with the score that I had already located.  Google-searching led me to Symphony Services International, a firm which now holds the orchestral library of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, from which the score in the National Library had apparently come.  An exchange of e-mails in early October revealed that they had a set of parts to Fleet but no corresponding score.  Upon investigationacquiring scans of the partsthe lost material was identified and (if only as printed out scans) reunited on a table half a world away.
Scans of our primary sources for Songs of the Fleet:  (top row, L-R) manuscript wind/brass/percussion parts sent to Sydney in 1910; lithographed string parts (ditto, but apparently still on hire from Stainer & Bell); 1910 published vocal score; (bottom row):  copyists full score sent to Sydney in 1910 with the parts; Stanfords autograph full score; Stanfords autograph vocal score.

MayJuly 2014:  While still gathering sources, the early summer was spent preparing a working text of each worka Finale file for each movement transcribed from the scans of Stanfords autographs.  I sent Edison copies of everything for Songs of the Sea-which was to be his main part of the projecton June 24.

September 2014:  In the first weeks of the fall semester, Edison and I scrambled to get the proposal ready for A-R.  It was tricky, as they wanted to see a lot of the work upfront, even though this was before we had time to really get to work.  I hastily prepared three movements of Fleet, pointing out textual differences between the published vocal score, the composer's autograph full and vocal scores, and the Australian full score (as we didnt yet have the Australian parts).

15 October 2014:  We submitted the formal proposal of the volume to A-R Editions; although we did not get the contract until September 2015, A-R had accepted the project in April 2015.

23 October 2014:  An e-mail reply from RCM librarian Peter Horton indicated that the performing parts of Sea in their collection were from the estate of Plunket Greene, the singer for whom both cycles were written.  This discovery would necessitate an on-site inspection, so I added that to my list of things to do in February 2015 when I would be back in London for a conference.

January 2015 was the beginning of the real editing work:  collating the readings of all available sources to settle on our new text, while at the same time evaluating the relative authority of each of the sources.  This involved checking and re-checking (and re-checking it twice) between the composers full scores and piano/vocal scores, the earliest available sets of performing parts, the early copyists scores, and the first edition vocal scores, all the while documenting every variant reading--and, moreover, following up every conceivable rabbit trail.  An example we stumbled across by way a Google search:  a performance of Songs of the Sea by the (amateur) Stock Exchange Orchestral and Choral Society, which made ripples in the press for a few weeks because the amateur group played at the old (high) pitch and Plunket Greene thus refused to sing it.  (I managed to get an independent publication out of this:  the story was too complicated to detail in our preface of the edition but would be handy to cite, so I wrote up a separate piece for the Newsletter of the American Musical Instrument Society, available here.)  We also had to secure permission to publish the discarded original endings of two of the movements of Songs of the Fleet:  unpublished, the copyright for these few bars remain the property of the Royal Society of Church Musicians, who was gracious enough to allow us to include them in our edition.

This process consumed thirteen months, off and on.  We kept a list of specific questions to check when I would next be back in the UK in December 2015, going through archival material of the Leeds Festival (where both works were premiered) and checking the RCM materials again, as well to revisit tertiary sources at the British Library.   (That trip also turned up an additional Song of the Sea by Newbolt and Stanford, written as a fundraiser in the early days of World War I.  We included it in our edition in an appendix.)  Edison was on-site for the first five months of our editing, after which we collaborated remotely.  He returned in January 2016 for a week of intense proofreading.


10 February 2016:  We submitted the complete edition to A-R, a few days ahead of our self-imposed deadline.  And then we waited, as we knew A-R had a number of other projects in line before ours.

And then it was basically radio silence for almost two years.  During that interval, I started the Settling Scores blogitching for something else to do, I guess.

Starting in January 2018, we were in much more frequent correspondence with our A-R editor as he and his colleagues copy-edited our work to bring it in line with their house style.  At first this was just email queries every few weeks; then:

On 21 June 2018, the copyedited manuscript was returned to us for a detailed check.  We had a month to go through it; that was perhaps the hardest part of the whole processboth emotionally (seeing our decisions about presentation undone) and practically (as it involved navigating through a forest of copy-editing markings):


In mid-July the manuscript went back to A-R, and for a month there was some back-and-forth about individual points.  In mid-August, A-R dispatched the finalized text to be professional set in their notation program.

26 October 2018:  The proofs arrived.  We had a six-week window to check them, and it proved very difficult during the academic term.  Responses were returned on 30 November, and after two weeks of e-mailing back and forth about a few contentious points, the corrections were sent on to the setter.

4 January 2019:  We received an e-mail that the second proofs were completed (in-house) and that our edition had been sent to the printer.

In the course of all of this, Edison and I have had major life changes:  both of us have moved and changed jobs; Edison has gotten married, and babies have arrived in both families (mine in June 2014 while I was preparing the working copy (and now almost in kindergarten), and Edisons in November 2018 while we were checking proofs).

I have learned so much in the process.  My previous editing projects had been much more straightforward and without the source complications posed by these works.  A-R helped us to think through the implications of every policy decision.  While there are ways in which I am not satisfied with the imposition of their house style, as I write now they seem like such petty detailstoo few to mention, as Frank Sinatra used to sing.  The overall improvements that A-R made to the final product far outweigh their alterations from the way I wanted it presented.  A labour of loveand probably a flop! as Sayers described The Nine Tailors.  One doesnt go into editing for the money, as by the time I add up the expenses of acquiring the resources and making the research trips, it is ultimately a money-losing activity.  Still, Im delighted to see it come to fruition; and, while I await the Wells Fargo wagon, I'm still gladder I dont have an impatient tenure committee waiting on it too.


01 January 2019

39. standardize/compromise

As we welcome the new year, fireworks are inevitably on my mind.  At the very least, my dogs make me aware of fireworks:  even distant explosions are enough to keep my dogs anxiously pacing the house.  (I can only imagine what it must be like for veterans with PTSD, hearing these explosions at too-close range well into the early hours.)  Moreover, beautiful as such displays may be, its hard for me not to feel that if youve seen one (good) one, youve pretty much seen them all.  I dont bother to stay up for them, and then Im cross when I am woken by worried canines.  On such occasions, I'm inclined to agree with Hamlets view of a similar noisy custom: 

More honoured in the breach than the observance (Act 1 Sc. 4).

SOURCE:  A view of the magnificent structure erected for the fireworks to be exhibited for the solemnization of the General Peace (uncredited, but apparently in the British Library), cropped from scan of the cover of Bärenreiter facsimile Georg Friedrich Händel:  The Musick for the Royal Fireworks / Feuerwerkmusik / British Library Manuscript R. M. 20.g.7 (2004).  (Christopher Hogwood's introduction to this volume is available here.)
Only because of this pyrotechnical connection, I thought it was time for me to comment on a few of my frustrations related to editions of Handels Musick for the Royal Fireworks (celebrating the 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle).  I grew up on a musical diet in which the largest food group consisted of Bach, Handel, Gilbert & Sullivan, and Mendelssohn.  I cant remember a time when I didnt know the Fireworks music, I think mostly from a 1972 recording by Neville Marriner and his Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields.  (It sounds very familiar to me now, and its exactly the sort of recording my father would have bought.)  But I remember, too, a recording of the suite orchestrated by Hamilton Harty, as well as hearing some of the early attempts at historically-informed reconstruction of the original all-winds and percussion scoring24 oboes, 12 bassoons, a contrabassoon (and, by rights, a serpentalthough Im not sure if that has yet been included on any of the recordings), nine each of trumpets and horns, plus timpani and side drum.  Those outrageous figures were already scaled back from the official plans.  A press blurb several months before the actual event listed 40 trumpets, 20 French horns, 16 hautboys, 16 bassoons, eight pair of kettle-drums, 12 side-drums, a proper number of flutes and fifes; with 100 cannon to go off singly at intervals, with the musick.

SOURCE:  detail of A Description of the Machine for the Fireworks... (London, 1749), p. 8, just for the heck of it; cropped scan from appendix in Bärenreiter facsimile, p. 92.

Then, as now, one must be skeptical of figures from those in power.  Just two years ago, the (then) White House press secretary Sean Spicer stepped in front of journalists to insist that This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, PERIOD, both in person and around the globe.  (My transcription hardly does him justice.  If you want to watch it again, here he is.)  Handel rehearsed the work inVauxhall Gardens, south of the Thames, on 21 April 1749 to what must have been a large audience, butas David Hunter has shownthe official figure quoted (an audience of above 12,000 persons (tickets 2s. 6d.)) is just not possible.  Taking physical, economic, social, and mathematical factors into account, Hunter reckons the realistic audience size charitably around 3500, allowing that it might have been a good bit smaller still [pp. 75–84].  Plus ça change plus cest la même chose.

I grant, however, that the music Handel wrote was extraordinary, at least in that it departed dramatically from any sort of ensemble he had used hitherto.  Handel was much more adventurous in his use of brass sonorities than was his contemporary J. S. Bach (although admittedly Bach called upon greater technical feats from his players).  The only Bach work I can think of that employs trumpets and horns simultaneously is BWV 205, the secular cantata Zerreißet, zersprenget, zertrümmert die Gruft.  (If there are others, perhaps someone will let me know.)  Handel uses those instruments in combination more often, particularlyas in the Water Music and his sumptuous oratorio Solomonfor antiphonal or double-chorus effects, where the contrasting timbres have much more impact than when he pits two identical ensembles together. (In this regard these works have the advantage of his three Concerti a due cori).  The three distinct ensembles of the Fireworks music are very evident on the first page of Handels autograph:  trumpets/timpani (four staves), horns (three staves), woodwinds (five staves):

SOURCE:  scanned from Bärenreiter facsimile, p. 59; also available at http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=R.M.20.g.7 (see f. 16r).
When in about 1988 I learned of Dover’s reprints of public domain editions, their paperback comprising the Water and the Fireworks music (both reprinted from Friedrich Chysanders Händelgesellschaft volume of 1886) was on my very first order form.  As I had grown accustomed to that, which prints the score with the staves allocated more or less as in Handels autograph, I found myself disorientated when opening both the 1962 volume of the HHA and its 2007 HHA revision.  In these newer editions, the score has been radically redistributed according (almost) to modern ordering conventions:  woodwinds at the top of the page, then brass (horns first, trumpets next), then percussion, then strings.  (What strings?  Ill come back to that.)  The almost is that in both of these HHA volumes, the bassoons are at the bottom of the page among the strings.  There is a reason for this:  in practice, the HHA only gives a bassoon its own staff when Handel has written an independent part, not just doubling the bass line common to the strings.

SOURCE:  (l.) Händelgesellschaft edition, vol. 47 (1886),  p. 100 [available at IMSLP #24009]; (r.) revised HHA Ser. IV Bd. 13 (2004), p. 87.
I grant that a standard score order is a useful thing, especially for a standardized ensemble.  I dont object to seeing Mozart scores reorganized in this way, with the upper strings moved from the very top (where he habitually put them) to the bottom (just above the cello/contrabass line).  That said, I think we do miss something when we look at a page so differently laid out from what he wrote, and I appreciate those textsa good example is Simon P. Keefes Mozart in Vienna:  the Final Decadein which the musical examples restore his score order.  Whatever reordering the HHA might impose on Handel in general, I think the Fireworks music deserves to be treated as an exception:  even by Handel's terms, the ensemble is exceptional.  (Even the NMA abandons its use of modernized score order when dealing with works for a non-standard ensemble; see for example the wind serenades, which retain Mozarts placement of the horns above the bassoons.)  There are times when the modernized allotment of staves obscures what Handel is doing with his triple ensemble.  Compare the pages below.  The HHA gives me the impression of a dialogue between only two ensemblesbrass (in the middle of the score) and oboes/strings (at the top and bottom); placing the horns above the trumpets means that when any of the horns play with the trumpet ensemble they appears to lead the brass altogether, and the use of two consorts (three trumpets + horn, then three horns) becomes almost invisible, while it is very clear in the autograph.
SOURCE:  (l.) autograph, f. 22v (facsimile p. 72); (r.) revised HHA Ser. IV Bd. 13 (2004), p. 107.
(I note with some distaste that already in 1788 Samuel Arnold had put the horns above the trumpets in his edition.)

A further complaint:  both the original HHA volume and the revised version present a score including five staves of strings, realizing instructions for doubling that Handel added to his autograph score.  Doing so while also retaining the inflated wind numbers conflates two distinct versionsoutdoor and indoorinto a form Handel never heard:  massed winds + strings.  The conflation makes a striking effect, but it is not something that ever happened in his time.  If youd like to experience this version but cant muster 80+ period-instrument players, heres a 2012 BBC Proms performance by Le Concert Spirituel under Hervé Niquet that does it for you, even adding a drum interlude (at 01:43ff, corresponding with Handels later-cancelled instruction alla Bruit de guerre”) in lieu of discharging cannon:


Strings were not part of the outdoor performanceapparently vetoed by George II himself.  I have my doubts that the overture was composed with strings in mind, given the problematically high viola line (generally doubling Oboe III), and the confusing pair of bass lines, in which the contrabass seems to be on the wrong line.  In his revised HHA, Christopher Hogwood has modified the viola line;  I find his version just as dubious, often doubling the bass up an octave even when it seems to me to intrude in the texture.  Whatever one does seems unsatisfactory.  The string doublings were likely added with an eye to a performance at the Foundling Hospital several weeks after the fireworks display; for that concert, the doubled-and-redoubled winds must surely have been scaled back to normal size.

Intriguingly, Hogwood interprets the marginalia in the autograph manuscript as indicating that the work heard at the Foundling Hospital performance differed in another significant respect:  the suite was truncated with just a few movements, and for the finale Handel borrowed the last movement of a trumpet/horn due cori concerto, HWV 335aa work thematically linked to the Fireworks overture and preserved in a different fascicle of the same bound volume now.  (For Hogwood's argument, see his Cambridge Music Handbook [pp. 115 and 127] and the revised HHA volume [p. xxviii-xxix].)  Musically, I like this suggestion a lot:  to me, the two menuets that conclude Fireworks are an unconvincing conclusion to such a work, at least when not followed by fireworks.  Those menuets plod.  The finale of HWV 335a, however, is buoyant.  (Hear it here.)  A problem with this solution to the marginalia is the scoring:  although the scoring is similar, it is not identical:  two (not three) trumpets + two pairs of horns (the first pair consistently with oboes, the second pair consistently with strings).  In that the rest of that Foundling Hospital performance included music from Solomon (two trumpets + two horns), I began to wonder if they jettisoned Trumpet III (or, Principale, as he labels it, denoting its low register) altogetherbut what did they do about the extra horn part?  A further problem:  the only movement in the autograph of Fireworks to have a staff allotted to the violas is the final menuetwhich this theory would exclude from the strings version of the piece; granted, the staff is lightly crossed-out as it stands.  Is that significant?

SOURCE:  cropped scan of autograph, f. 28v (facsimile, p. 84)
This leads me to my third frustration:  my sense is that the indoor version of the Fireworks music (and Fireworks no longer seems the right name) really deserves to be published as its own distinct workand with its own catalogue number.  The revised HHA volume does right by the Water Music (and Ill come back to it sometime), but I fear an opportunity was missed to do justice to the Fireworks music.  The new volumes blue covers enclose both a triumphant flourish (the much-needed update of Water Music, since many important sources had come to light) and a damp squib.  Surely there will not be a second revised volume to give us distinct outdoor and indoor versions of Fireworks; we will have to wait for someone else to do itsomeone willing to defy standardization and its inevitable compromise.  Someone, that is, willing to honor the custom in the breach rather than the observance.