Click to enlargeLargo (brass quintet)

George Frideric Handel was a contemporary of both J. S. Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, and these three together were among the most famous composers of the baroque era. Scarlatti remained in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and became known primarily for his keyboard compositions, Bach remained in Germany and composed mostly church music, while fellow German Handel eventually emigrated to England, anglicized his name, and became the baroque equivalent of a rock star.

Largo is Italian for slow. Seldom has slow sounded more stately and majestic than in Handel's Largo. Originally composed for the opera Xerxes (Serse) in 1738, some have come to associate it with funerals, though it is definitely not mournful, but rather sober, dignified, and deeply expressive.

It is ironic that while baroque music is usually described as complex, ornamented, and more mechanical than the classical or romantic music which followed, this piece is rather simple and very expressive. It almost seems to belong in the romatic period, as though it had come from the pen of Beethoven or Brahms.

This arrangement presents the piece simply, as Handel intended. The first trumpet carries the lead almost all the way through, though the second trumpet takes a handoff from time to time. Also notable is a long section played by just the four upper voices, creating a massive increase in sound with the dramatic reentry of the tuba for the last few phrases.

MP3 sound sample: entire piece (synthesizer/midi).



LARGO, by G. F. Handel, arranged by Tom Kirkland for brass quintet consisting of two trumpets, F horn, trombone, and tuba, comes in a pdf file of 2813K, with a seven-page score, five two-page parts, and a license page, eighteen pages in all. Performance time is approximately 4:35.


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Last update: 27 September 2017