Handel is best known for his oratorios and operas, but his instrumental music, often overlooked, reveals a brilliant mind at work.
Handel learned the concerto grosso form from Corelli during his time in Italy and took Corelli’s innovation to the next level. Haydn and the modern symphony are now mere decades away, getting closer all of the time. Here is a link to them being performed by Andrew Manze and the Academy of Ancient Music. I like this set very much, which is performed on original instruments and in a properly Baroque tempo. Some would say that Nos. 6 and 7 are the best, but I am partial to Nos. 5 and 10. There are links in the description that allow you to skip around if desired.
George Frideric Handel, Concerti grosso:
Theme and variation was a popular form for smaller compositions in the Baroque age. The concept was simple: take a basic theme and progress it through various rhythms, keys and ornamentations. Handel’s Chaccone in G Major takes the familiar A-B-A form, with the B theme presented in the contrasting G minor, before the A theme returns to G major. A classic Handel tune.
George Frideric Handel, Chaconne Variations in G Major:
Handel was also a prolific chamber music composer and his violin concertos have been in constant repertoire since their composition. This is one of my favorites. Despite the many wonderful midcentury recordings, modern instruments dull the composition. I am a huge fan of original instruments and this is as good a reason why. Here is another Andrew Manze performance from one of my favorite recordings. I think this concerto sums up Handel the best of any piece of music here.
George Frideric Handel, Violin Sonata in F Major, Op. 1, No. 12: