Handel overture transcriptions

In his search for a Handel theme, Claudio mentioned the 60 orchestral overtures in keyboard transcriptions. I so happens that I discovered these about a month ago; had never looked at them before. The edition of 60 put out by Handel’s publisher, Walsh, is available on IMSLP. There are apparently some others, including a few by Handel himself. I’ve ordered vol. I of the edition of these transcriptions by T. Best, which has better information about sources and so forth (coming next week).

Meanwhile, I will say that some of these are great fun if you’re in the mood for Handel at the keyboard. (The transcriptions were apparently done by various hands and the quality varies.) So far I particularly like Radamistus, Theseus, Athalia and Rinaldo.

I am always interested in harpsichord works with original dynamic indications, and some of the transcriptions have them. I compared a couple of the transcriptions with the orchestral scores, and the dynamics reflect the originals (not a surprise, but still interesting to see how 18th c. musicians approached making such versions, and how one can use a double-manual harpsichord to good advantage). Some of the transcriptions mark certain passages for oboes, which is odd in versions specifically intended for harpsichord. I suppose the arrangers assumed that players, even amateur ones, would be familiar enough with Handel’s style to understand such notations as an indication to play more softly.

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Those markings also show that two-manual harpsichords were becoming common in England well before the post-1750 large-scale production by the Kirkmans, Shudis, Broadwoods et.al.