Haendel repertoire for violin?

Edited: June 17, 2020, 1:52 AM · Hi. I'm interested in learning a bit about Haendel repertoire for violin, both for listening and playing:

1. Which are the main pieces he wrote for violin? (or in which of his pieces the violin has a big role)?

2. Of those pieces, which could be considered early intermediate repertoire (if any)?

Thank you.

Replies (13)

Edited: June 17, 2020, 4:42 AM · There are the sonatas for violin and keyboard (harpsichord originally but they can work on piano).A few of these have since been found to be spurious, although I still happen to like the ones that probably are not by Handel. The Barenreiter edition explains which ones probably are not by Handel. There are also two single movements Andante HWV412 and Allegro HWV408. There is an Allegro for violin alone, HWV 407. And finally there is even a concerto HWV 288. Not many people know about that one as it is called Sonata a5, however looking at the score it quite clearly a solo violin line above a string ensemble or small orchestra. Start with some of the sonatas - maybe HWV 368 in G minor (although this is one that is thought it might not be by Handel anymore!)
June 17, 2020, 4:51 AM · IMSLP lists 7 violin sonatas. Since they're free you should take a look at them. He also wrote a number of concerti grossi in which the violin is one of the featured instruments. All of his orchestral pieces and oratorios rely on the violin and the parts are not easy to play well.
However I think it's safe to say that Haendel is not a composer whose music is featured on repertoire lists for violin. His contemporaries Vivaldi, Telemann and Bach wrote much more demanding works for violin.
As to which Haendel works would be considered "early intermediate repertoire" that's hard to say -- if this is an attempt to find works that you would enjoy working on and be within your grasp it might help to list some of the other pieces you're working on so that people can try to figure which of his pieces might fit with your other repertoire.
As a guess I'd say (based on my knowledge of Haendel's music featuring other instruments) that some of his violin sonatas might well fall into that category.
Edited: June 17, 2020, 5:50 AM · I believe the Händel violin sonatas are a staple of the violin repertoire. Just search this site for [Händel sonatas] and you will find these have been discussed here a lot in the past.

I also found the following program notes quite interesting:

"George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) Complete Violin Sonatas" by Ariadne Daskalakia (Naxos, 2010).

Edited: June 17, 2020, 6:45 AM · Jean is right, but it is also true that Handel's music has rather fallen out of favor recently--except for Messiah of course. When I was young it was perfectly normal, almost common practice, to start a recital with one of his sonatas.

Personally I think they are of varying quality plus the sources seem to be a mess and people disagree about which ones are actually by Handel.

My favorite three would be the one in D (HWV 371), A (HWV 361) and g (HWV 368). The HWV numbers mean nothing to anybody but they will help you find them on IMSLP.

It is certainly fair to qualify all of them as "early intermediate", not far from Vivaldi's a-minor concerto. On the other hand my violin teacher once quipped that (a famous soloist whose name I am not sure about now) "found out on stage that the piece isn't as easy as it looks". They vary somewhat in difficulty; the three I mentioned are among the more challenging ones, especially the A-Major which includes a fair amount of double stopping (second movement a fugue).

The one in D Major stands out for me as a masterpiece.

June 17, 2020, 7:08 AM · https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/six-sonatas-piano-violin-sheet-music/3145606?utm_medium=cpc&adpos=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIp6KO6OaI6gIVlyCtBh2SsgaJEAQYBCABEgKAQfD_BwE&d=sem_sidecar&d=sem_sidecar&d=sem_ggl_{campaign_id}_&popup=false&popup=false&utm_source=google&ac=1&country_code=USA&sc_intid=3145606&scid=scplp3145606

This Schirmer book of 6 Hándel Violin/piano sonatas was my "staple" back around 1948-49 before moving on to Mozart concertos 3 & 5 and the Bach A minor concert. I have continued to delight in playing them from time to time ever since.

One nice thing (compared to the Mozart sonatas) when playing them with a keyboard partner, the violinist does not have long rests to count through!

June 17, 2020, 4:35 PM · "...HWV 288. Not many people know about that one as it is called Sonata a5"

It's also sometimes called the "Sonata à Cinque". From the notes for this piece on a recording I love by Kenneth Stillito on violin with the English Chamber Orchestra led by Raymond Leppard (who wrote the text):

"Handel begins with a melody we have already heard in the second oboe concerto but this time it is expanded into something more significant. The beautiful phrases and their interplay make this a precious part of Handel's legacy to us."

And also "we have elaborated the solo violin line (as would, doubtless, have been expected of the eighteenth-century Italian soloist), keeping to the outline of the original notes."

One of the problems, and pleasures, with playing Handel is that the notation is often uncertain and incomplete, and thus widely abused in more recent, say romantic, printed versions, which in turn removes from the original qualities to some extent, and often relates them to the dust pile of student repertoire not often recorded by more advanced musicians.

To answer the OP, "the" sonatas are a part of the typical student repertoire, and as such several of them are referenced in the common syllabi. The ABRSM and RCM for example are available online, as are the Suzuki books' table of contents. If you search for "Handel" in them (with or without the other e), you'll get many results together with implied level of difficulty.

Edited: June 23, 2020, 5:32 AM · Thank you everyone for taking your time to write your responses. I've been a bit busy these days and I completely forgot I had asked this question here!

I'll listen to the sonatas you mention. I also asked my teacher about this and I got a very similar response: Haendel has some beautiful works, is a typical part of student repertoire, but unfortunately it's becoming less popular over time.

In any case, I'll talk again with my teacher and consider playing at least a part of some of his sonatas when he thinks I 'm ready. I enjoy listening to other works by Haendel (specially organ works), and playing music one enjoys increases the overall fun of learning an instrument.

Edited: June 23, 2020, 10:47 AM · I don't know Miguel. The D major violin sonata (usually called number 4 in the set) is a staple of the baroque violin repertoire. It's probably better known than the Bach sonatas for violin and keyboard. It's not only quite beautiful, but it's really not a student work. As Albrecht points out, the A major sonata is actually pretty tricky.

I wasn't aware that Handel had been falling out of favor - If that's true it's a shame - Even the violin sonatas that were attributed to him and he didn't write are great. Besides Messiah, I hear the Water Music, Queen of Sheba, Royal Fireworks and Harp Concerto all the time on my public radio station. Perhaps he suffers for being overly prolific, like Telemann, who I think has become slightly more popular over the last 30 years.

Miguel, check out some of the Handel Sonatas, and start with some of the easier ones - Leave the D major (HWV 371) and A major (HWV 361) for a little later.

Try this one out Miguel - It's the easiest (Even though it's probably not actually written by Handel)

Edited: June 24, 2020, 9:07 AM · A few more posts like this and Handel will come back into favor! The popularity of many composers can be cyclical, anyway.

I've had a look on IMSLP at the violin concerto in Bb, HWV 288. The only score available is the urtext, decently printed, just the full score, no parts. The whole work is only 161 measures in length, so it's not a big job to copy out the solo part by hand, or, if one is not so inclined, to commit the solo part to memory (which is what you should be doing anyway if you're intending to put serious effort into learning a concerto). Incidentally, initially copying out a solo part which would otherwise be inaccessible has further advantages in that you can see the relationships of the solo part to the orchestra, and subsequent formal memorisation is helped.

On IMSLP there is a Naxos recording of HWV 288 performed by Emanuel Vardi with the Stradivari Records Chamber Orchestra. Mysteriously, this recording refuses to play - I've tried three times over a couple of days. I have no problems playing other Naxos recordings on IMSLP, of which I am a paid-up member.

June 24, 2020, 2:14 PM · It plays for me. Strange.
June 24, 2020, 3:40 PM · Tessa Robbins would regularly start a recital with a Handel sonata - I remember particularly the E-major, but then I played the second movement of it as the fast bit of my performance for the House Music Competition - I came third.
Edited: June 24, 2020, 5:44 PM · Albrecht, the Naxos recording of HWV 288 still won't play for me - possibly
a network problem somewhere? My solution is to go to our old friend YouTube where I found numerous recordings of HWV 288, often in separate movements so you've got to hunt around for them individually, which is a pain, but I found an excellent complete recording by the reliable and authentic Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Richard Egarr with Pavlo Beznosiuk as soloist. The Youtube link is
Edited: June 24, 2020, 8:58 PM · Menuhin recorded it.
It's on iTunes.
The album is titled: Handel Sarabande

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