Harp Concerto in B-flat, Op. 4, No. 6
George Frideric Handel
Handel’s Harp Concerto was published as an organ concerto in Opus 4 in 1738, and may originally have been composed in that form. Indeed, as published, the Concerto works on either instrument. Handel’s organ concertos were written to be interludes for him to play during his oratorios, on the organ he had available in the theater — a chamber organ with one keyboard and no pedal-board — so they do not include a part to be played with the feet in addition to the right and left hands. The Concerto in B-flat is conjectured to be the one described as a concerto for “Harp, Lute, Lyrichord [a keyboard instrument that sounded the strings with a bowing mechanism, rather like a hurdy-gurdy] and other Instruments” that was performed in February 1736 during Handel’s St Cecilia’s Day ode Alexander’s Feast. Saint Cecilia was the patron saint of music, and odes to her were always about the power of music (Alexander’s Feast tells the story of how a bard used music to manipulate Alexander the Great in the celebration after his conquest of Persia), so unusual or lavish displays of instrumental sound were expected.