Saunders Recorders

Comments on Handel Sonatas

These observations by Alan Davis, copied (with permission) from The Recorder Magazine Autumn 2010, "Notes on Authenticity", describe some of the variations between editions of Handel sonatas. I commend the whole article to you.

"Edgar Hunt's 1940 edition (Schott) of the four sonatas, originally published as part of Handel's so-called Opus 1 by Walsh in 1731, made them readily accessible to players, but in accordance with editorial practice of the time the text was liberally furnished with dynamics, slurs and breath marks; the first movement of the A minor sonata was transcribed from 3/4 into 9/8 time - a perfectly reasonable interpretation, but not the only possibility; and the realization of the figured bass was elaborately worked out and intended to be played as printed, thereby inhibiting the improvisation which is such a vital element in baroque continuo accompaniment.

"Thurston Dart's 1948 edition (Schott) entitled 'Three Fitzwilliam Sonatas' was in a similar style. It also caused confusion by presenting not only the sonatas in B flat and D minor (not published in Handel's time, but preserved in an autograph manuscript in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), but also a bogus sonata made up from two movements which might or might not belong to the D minor sonata (the MS is ambiguous) and an additional movement culled from another source and embellished with a variation composed by the editor.

"The 1955 edition of 'Eleven Flute Sonatas' by Hans-Peter Schmitz (Bärenreiter) included the four Opus 1 recorder sonatas, provided a somewhat more restrained continuo realization and the flute and figured bass parts were printed together as a two-part score - a very sensible arrangement which few publishers of baroque sonatas seem willing to adopt.

"The 1979 edition (Faber) by David Lasocki and Walter Bergmann entitled 'Complete Recorder Sonatas' brought together all six sonatas for the first time. This publication demonstrated an impressive depth of scholarship, with disparities in the primary sources duly noted. For many players, however, it is somewhat marred by the over-elaborate continuo realization and the obtrusive, quasi-improvisatory cadenza incorporated into the main text at the end of the fifth movement of the D minor sonata.

"All of this will be familiar to most readers of The Recorder Magazine, but this brief description of just four of the many editions of the Handel Sonatas published over the last seventy years illustrates some of the problems and issues which may arise when trying to identify an appropriate text on which to base a performance.

"Playing directly from a facsimile of an original manuscript or printed edition may often be the best option. An increasingly large number of good facsimiles of a wide range of repertoire are now available, and where there are problems such as poor legibility or unfamiliar clefs, performers can use the facsimiles as a basis for making their own working editions to suit individual needs and preferences."

© Alan Davis 2010

Comments on Corelli Sonatas

Corelli's Opus V, the twelve sonatas for violin and continuo, appeared in 1700. It was a most influential publication.

The first six sonatas are extended works, with fugues, double stopping and other virtuosity. Two of these, No.3 and No.4, were arranged, with decorated slow movements, for recorder by "an eminent master" in 1707. No.4 is an essential piece in the recorder repertoire and is regularly set for Grade 8.

The rest are lighter works, full of dance movements, followed by Corelli's amazing variations on La Follia. These were published for recorder in 1702 in very practical arrangements that are not so crude as some maintain.

All the modern recorder editions of the sonatas in the second half of Opus V use the 1702 publication as their starting point but go back to the original violin parts to a greater or lesser extent. This means that the music in one edition can have notes and passages in a different octave from another. Take care if you are not buying the specified edition for an examination. There is also a difficulty with the numbering of the sonatas. The 1702 arrangements are ordered differently from the original Opus V.

The Schott edition is perhaps the most faithful to the 1702 arrangements, followed by the Moeck. The Hinrichshofen is most faithful to the original violin parts and uses high notes more. Fuzeau publish a facsimile of the 1702 edition, Six Solos for a Flute and a Bass, if you want to see what you are missing.

The new Peacock edition of La Follia, edited by Alan Davis, is based on the Walsh edition of 1702 and includes suggestions for following the original violin version where Walsh departs from it without good cause. There are good introductory and explanatory notes. In addition to a simply realised continue part (by Colin Baines), separate recorder part and bass part, a two stave part for figured bass and recorder completes this clearly printed and performance friendly edition.

The Dolce edition is of two completely different sonatas that survive in manuscript and were not included in Opus V.

Comments on Telemann Sonatas

Telemann published his Six "Neue Sonatinen" (New Sonatinas) in around 1730-31. Four are for flute or violin and two are for recorder or bassoon. They were printed in two part books but unfortunately no bass parts survive.

Musica Rara first published the two recorder pieces, and then Amadeus published all six. These first modern editions have newly composed bass lines. Those in the Amadeus edition, by Winfried Michel, are brilliant, if over-extravagent.

However, the two recorder sonatinas were later recognised in an anonymous manuscript score held in Dresden. (The recorder part is written down an octave, for violin.) Telemann's bass line had been rediscovered! (It is much better than the reconstructions.)

Schott and Dolce have now published the sonatinas, for recorder, with the original bass line by Telemann. Dolce edition gives you the complete Telemann sonatas, at a low price, but there are some mistakes and problems with the layout. The Musica Rara and Amadeus editions should be consigned to history.

Comments on Vivaldi Concertos

Amadeus publish three of Vivaldi's flautino concertos, the two in C major, RV 443 and RV444, and the A minor RV 445, transposed down a fourth for descant recorder. The new keys are G major and E minor. This comes from a written instruction by Vivaldi on two of the concertos (RV 443 and 445) to transpose them down. (Gl'Istrom:ti trasporti alla 4:a, and Gl'Istrom:ti alla4a Bassa.)

There has been much argument about which instrument Vivaldi's flautino is. (Recorder, flageolet or piccolo flute.) But the consensus is that it is a sopranino recorder. The term Gl'Istromenti refers only to the orchestral instruments, not the soloist, so it is very likely that the transposition was to allow the concertos to be played on a descant recorder, reading from the sopranino part in F-fingerings; something that happens in many other descant recorder parts.

If you don't like the sopranino this is a good excuse to play them on the descant. However, the Amadeus edition makes the dubious claim that it is the transpositions that were Vivaldi's original intention; the foreword says "it is beyond doubt that 'flautino' does not mean a piccolo-(sopranino)-recorder". This doesn't actually fit the evidence as it is clear from the manuscripts that the instructions to transpose were added later, so the original intention was that they be played on the sopranino. Presumably RV444 was not re-used in this way. (See "Vivaldi's Music for Flute and Recorder", Federico Maria Sardelli, translated by Michael Talbot, Ashgate 2007 for more information.)

But, all that said, it is refreshing to play them on descant. And it makes the octave jumps easier. Enjoy them, but don't be seduced by Amadeus' claims.

I would like to thank A.R. for providing the basis for the above comments.

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