Handel: Suite in D major HWV 341

George Frideric Handel has always been a composer’s composer. For all that he was popular with the public during his lifetime and is still popular (for at least a few of his works!) to the present day, it is the esteem that other great composers of the past hold him in that truly gives a glimpse of his character. “Handel was the greatest composer that ever lived,” wrote Beethoven; “I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb.” Once, when Haydn received a compliment on the quality of his recitatives, he brushed it off with, “Ah, [the recitative] Deeper and Deeper in [Handel’s] Jephtha is far beyond that!” Mozart said that “Handel understands affect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt.”

One of Handel’s other notable qualities, which was perhaps better-understood by his fellow composers who experienced the pressures of producing works explicitly intended to please patrons, was his looseness and expansiveness with regards to which works could truly be said to have been written “by” him. Even in comparison to the norms of the era, Handel’s propensity for borrowing and remixing both his own and others’ works was prodigious; modern musicologist Richard Taruskin has summarized him as “the champion of all parodists.” Copyright law, of course, was in its very infancy when Handel was an established middle-aged composer, so the idea of “intellectual property” tying one specific work to one specific person had no presence in his mind the way it does in our modern consciousness, with all of our pesky ideas of authorship and ownership.

As well as transforming the work of others, Handel was also perfectly content to allow publishers to rearrange his music, without consultation, into whatever forms they saw fit. Such is the case with the Suite in D major_, which_ for reasons that may well have been dramatic but have been lost to the sands of time, was originally published by the rival publishing house to the one with whom Handel had an exclusive agreement. The musical contents of which are a mix-and-match of tunes from sources such as the second Water Music suite and the opera Partenope_._ They are arranged for trumpet, strings and continuo in the virtuosic style that despite not being Handel’s own work, is certainly at least an homage from a contemporary who, like Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, held Handel in the very highest esteem.