"I doubt anyone who had never heard Favella Lyrica could imagine what they do, or how well they do it: We've never heard anything quite like the duet singing of Pamela Murray and Pamela Dellal." 



The Marvelous Mr. Handel

with guest artists:

Mark McSweeney, baritone
Daniel Ryan, baroque cello


Georg Friederich Handel wrote chamber music for two and three voices during several creative periods in his life. The first was during his first trip to Italy, in 1707-09, and subsequently, 1710-1712, while he was court composer for Princess Caroline of Hannover (later Queen Caroline of England, Handel’s great patron); and the second much later in London, 1741-1745. The music in this genre thus spans nearly forty years of composition, during which he brought the Baroque genres of opera and oratorio to the pinnacles of musical form. The chamber pieces function much differently than these public works: clearly not theatrical pieces, they are nevertheless written, for the most part, for professional singers of opera caliber to sing in private or court gatherings. Handel seemed to view the format of two or three voices and continuo as a forum for testing out new musical ideas, and various ways of working them through; in any case, the amount of music from these pieces that appears later in Handel’s greatest works, such as Messiah, Acis and Galatea, Alexander’s Feast, L’Allegro ed iI Penseroso, Belshazzar, etc, is astounding. Contrary to the view previously held that these self-borrowings implied a lazy or somehow dishonest approach, what is most apparent about the borrowed material is the extensive reworking that Handel applies to the music, so that in each context the phrasing and character seem totally right.

Langue, geme is from the early London period, 1722, and Tanti strali is from the Hannover set. Langue treats the lovely image of the longing dove with great tenderness. Tanti strali is a fine example of the complex variety of form that many of the early pieces display: a full da capo opening section, followed by a melting Adagio, concluding with a brilliant Allegro. Giù nei Tartarei regni is from the early Italian period, and the opening sequence of suspensions and plunging leaps suggest the great Italian vocal composers of the previous century as well as the dark, Dantesque text. Tacete, ohimè sets its text in totally surprising, but psychologically convincing, ways: the urgency of the appeal not to awaken the sleeping Love is explained when the reason -- to preserve the peace of the world -- is unfolded in ravishing chains of triplets. The first of the two trios, Se tu non lasci amore handles the complex texture with the skill of the choral master, although it dates from 1708, well before Handel crafted his great oratorios.

Ahi, nelle sorti and Quel fior are from the 1740s, while Handel was writing his greatest works in London. Ahi, nelle sorti is the last chamber duet he wrote and is distinguished by an exquisite melody and much more subtle use of harmonic motion than the earlier pieces. Quel fior is instantly recognizable to any Handel fan, since all of its melodic material turns up in Messiah, written that same year. One is struck by the appropriateness of the themes in both contexts. Che vai pensando is a gentle piece that meanders fittingly to the daydreaming text. Quando in calma offers the brilliant virtuosity that Handel is known for: clearly Handel envisioned trained opera singers negotiating these death-defying melismas! Well-known music reappears in the second trio, Quel fior, set to the same text as the above duet and predating it by forty years or so. The opening section reappears in Alexander’s Feast, and the final section was later used by Handel for L’Allegro ed il Penseroso, both with dramatically altered character. In this case Handel’s large scale dramatic structure is as breathtaking as the beauty of the themes themselves.

Langue, geme (HWV 188 - 1722-24)
Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi (HWV 197 - 1710-12)

Giù nei Tartarei regni (HWV 187 - 1707)
Tacete, ohimè, tacete (HWV 196 - 1706-07)

Se tu non lasci amore (HWV 201 - 1708)


Ahi, nelle sorti umane (HWV 179 - 1745)
Quel fior che all'alba ride (HWV 192 - 1741)

Che vai pensando (HWV 184 - 1707-09)
Quando in calma ride il mare (HWV 191 - 1707-09)
Quel fior che all'alba ride (HWV 200 - 1708)