GE­ORGE hAN­DEL Largo: Om­bra Mai Fu

Orig­i­nally com­posed for a string en­sem­ble, Brid­get Mermikides has sprin­kled her magic over this aria from Han­del’s Serse, and ar­ranged it for us in drop D.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Brid­get Mermikides ar­ranges and tran­scribes one of the Aus­trian mas­ter’s deep­est and most cap­ti­vat­ing pieces for solo clas­si­cal gui­tar.

Among all com­posers of Western Art Mu­sic, Ge­orge Frid­eric Han­del (1685-1759) is among the most pro­duc­tive and well-re­spected. His out­put over his work­ing life is al­most un­be­liev­able, and it’s hard to fathom how one hu­man could pro­duce 42 op­eras, 29 or­a­to­rios, over 120 can­tatas, 84 hymns, 56 con­cer­tos, 23 con­certi grossi and hun­dreds of other or­ches­tral works, songs and in­stru­men­tal pieces.

Han­del (a Ger­man who lived most of his life in Lon­don) was suc­cess­ful dur­ing his life­time, and cel­e­brated not only by the pub­lic, but by other great com­posers. Th­ese in­clude his con­tem­po­rary Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Bach who claimed that Han­del “un­der­stood af­fect bet­ter than any of us”, and none other than Beethoven who dubbed him the “great­est com­poser who ever lived” and “the mas­ter of us all”. Given that Bach and Beethoven are cited in the top three com­posers of all time, this is a re­spect not eas­ily won.

Now over 250 years since his death, his mu­sic is recorded and per­formed with un­abated en­thu­si­asm. Of th­ese, the Mes­siah (and its Hal­lelu­jah cho­rus) is one of the most cel­e­brated choral works of all time and his Wa­ter Mu­sic, and Mu­sic For The Royal Fire­works are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with Bri­tish cul­ture. In this in­stal­ment, I’ve se­lected one of his (many) beau­ti­ful arias to ar­range for solo gui­tar.

This is the open­ing aria of his 1738 opera Serse. This was orig­i­nally or­ches­trated for a string en­sem­ble with the melody in F Ma­jor sung by a cas­trato (now that’s ded­i­ca­tion to your job). To­day, it is usu­ally ar­ranged (mer­ci­fully) for counter-tenor or mez­zoso­prano. I’ve trans­posed the melody down to D Ma­jor, in drop D tun­ing and it, in fact, fits quite id­iomat­i­cally on the gui­tar in this key with a pleas­ing res­o­nance. The lyrics – sung by a Per­sian king – are ad­mir­ing the shade of a plane tree. So the ap­pro­pri­ate tempo is slow and grace­ful (Largo means slow and stately), how­ever, it will take some work to keep the chords even and fluid, and the melody legato and flow­ing. If you think of the ac­com­pa­ni­ment as strings, and the melody sung above it will help you bal­ance and voice them ap­pro­pri­ately. The tab cap­tions will help with the tech­ni­cal de­tails, and it may also be worth lis­ten­ing to rel­e­vant record­ings to cap­ture the spirit.


Han­del: hailed a ge­nius by fel­low ge­nius com­posers

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