Handel-Feuermann: Adagio & Allegro for Cello, Strings, and Continuo

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Handel-Feuermann: Adagio & Allegro for Cello, Strings, and Continuo

Jeffrey Solow

The great cellist Emanuel Feuermann (1901-42) died tragically at the age of 39. Among his many transcriptions, editions, and arrangements, the most popular is his virtuosic edition of Chopin’s Polonaise Brilliante. Less well known, but only because it remains unpublished, is his arrangement of Handel’s Adagio & Allegro, taken from the first two movements of the Organ Concerto in G minor op. 4, No. 3. In the concerto, a solo cello and solo violin share melodic duties which no doubt sparked Feuermann’s interest in creating a version for cello and piano. He interwove those two solo parts for the Adagio and in the Allegro, ingeniously adapted the solo organ part for the cello.

Handel probably would not have minded Feuermann’s arrangement, having set the precedent himself. Alternate settings of the Adagio can be found in the Trio Sonata for 2 violins, op. 2, No. 6 (c. 1730) as well as in the Aria “Ah! Crudel” from his 1711 opera Rinaldo, where it is scored for oboe and bassoon. Handel used the Allegro theme in the finale of the same trio sonata, in the finale of the Oboe Concerto No. 3 (c. 1703?), in two other chamber works, and a harpsichord piece composed about 1720. His final version, the organ concerto, received its premier on March 5, 1735.

Feuermann’s arrangement survives in an undated manuscript (though not in Feuermann’s hand), in several transcriptions taken from Feuermann’s 1939 recording with pianist Franz Rupp, and in a piano part written down in 1984 by his sister Sophie with whom he had frequently performed the Adagio & Allegro. I adapted Handel’s original scoring for the concerto, consisting of 2 oboes, strings and continuo, to match Feuermann’s transcription.

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