The realisation of recitative by the Cello in Handelian Opera


This thesis examines the author’s practice of the chordal realisation of recitative by the cello in Handel opera. The realisation of recitative has a long pedagogical history from 1774–1877; it is, however, rarely part of current practice. The decline of realisation in the nineteenth century and its consequences for current practice is considered. The realisation of recitative first appears in cello pedagogy as a fully formed practice. Its origins are unclear. The first chapter demonstrates that the development of cello technique at the turn of the eighteenth century provided Italian émigré composer-cellists with the techniques to realise recitative. The use of the cello as a harmonising instrument is traced through its repertoire from the late seventeenth century to the unexpected pedagogical source of Geminiani’s The Art of Playing the Guitar. An analysis of this important and neglected source for the cello is offered. Opera manuscripts that appear to reveal traces of realisation by the cello are examined. Initially promising Handel sources are debunked. Handel harpsichord scores suggest that the continuo group was more homogeneous than in current recorded practice. This is considered alongside the poor acoustics of eighteenth-century theatres, suggesting a motive for the realisation of recitative by the cello. Cello methods from 1741–1877 are analysed. They reveal an increasingly elaborate practice of realisation of recitative by the cello in the early nineteenth century. Tensions emerge in the methods between Affekt, technique, and stagecraft. The author’s own practice is described. Common techniques between chordal realisation and current practice are examined. A method for acquiring a vocabulary of chords is offered that improves on those in the historical methods. Transcriptions of the author’s realisations together with a report from rehearsals and performances of Handel’s Agrippina at the Vlaamse Opera illustrate the author’s practice. The thesis concludes with a response to critical reception to the author’s practice

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