HANDEL’S ORGANO AD LIBITUM: A STUDY OF ADAGIOS IN HIS ORGAN CONCERTOS
MetadataShow full item record
This study seeks to discover Handel’s likely improvisational process, specifically in the adagio ad libitum sections of his organ concertos. Handel indicated organo ad libitum in twelve adagio movements in the fifteen organ concertos, offering extensive opportunities for extemporaneous performance. The study helps today’s organists understand Handel’s improvisational process and create their own improvisations in the adagio sections of his organ concertos. Chapter One explains the historical concepts needed to understand the scant notation in Handel’s adagios. A Baroque musician read the indication “adagio” not as a mere tempo marking but as a genre requiring improvisation. Handel’s music education included the development of improvisational skills requiring the memorization of musical formulas that he could retrieve at the moment of performance. The steps involved in the improvisational process can be labeled with rhetorical terms from Baroque education: dispositio (the underlying large-scale framework), elaboratio (voice-leading), and decoratio (surface-level ornamentation). Understanding such concepts is a preliminary step towards creating one’s own adagio ad libitum improvisations in a style befitting a Handel organ concerto. Chapter Two describes the improvisational process as applied to Handel’s scores. The primary material that Handel left becomes a starting point in the construction-deconstruction-reconstruction cycle, a process borrowed from Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra. The underlying harmonic framework and voice-leading progressions of Handel’s complete adagios are studied and analyzed, along with the surface-level ornamentation. The analysis reveals musical formulas employed by Handel. These formulas are then used to generate two newly composed adagios, which can easily be performed as though they were improvisations. Baroque treatises that might have influenced Handel’s formation as a young musician are also investigated in order to understand conventional Baroque improvisational practices. The study includes musical examples from treatises by Wolfgang Gaspar Printz, Johann Moritz Vogt, Friedrich Niedt, Johann Joachim Quantz, and Michael Wiedeburg. Handel’s own music and theoretical sources help modern organists create improvisations for the adagio ad libitum sections of his organ concertos.