This program spans the more than three decades in which Handel’s principal business was Italian opera. In 1707, when he composed Il delirio amoroso in Rome, he was a 21-year-old boy wonder whose two Hamburg operas had made him a budding international star. When he wrote the twelve concertos of his Opus 6 in Fall 1739, his 40 operas had made him a household word in England, but the opera market was drying up and Handel was entering the final, English oratorio, phase of his career.
The Opus 6 concertos were intended both as interludes for his oratorio concerts and for publication under a new arrangement with London publisher John Walsh. The edition not only exploited the demand for concertos, but went a long way toward solving the significant problem of pirated editions in London because it enabled Handel to co-opt Walsh, who was the biggest pirate of them all. Walsh presold the edition to 106 subscribers, including six members of the royal family.
The English public favored the Corellian multi-movement concerto grosso, with its solo concertino of two violins and cello, rather than the Vivaldian three-movement solo concerto. Handel’s G-major Concerto owes much to Corelli’s model, with soloists and orchestra sharing material, but Handel is cavalier about maintaining the concerto texture. In the last movement, for example, the soloists barely poke their heads out of the orchestra.