For the past couple of weeks, I have been studying and practicing on the keyboard a small part of the score from the Opera Xerxes by G.F. Handel. The excerpt above has been transposed to the key of C major which is easier for me and my arthritic old fingers to perform as I learn the fingering and tempo.
The piece I’m learning is the bridge music between the recitative Frondi Tenere (Branches Tender and Beautiful) and the aria Ombra Mai Fu (A Shadow There Never Was) both of which are sung by the title character Xerxes of Persia. The piece is only fifteen measures in length and can be executed in about 35 to 40 seconds but the fingering and tempo are a little challenging to me. I’m sure I will get it down soon, but in the meantime, I’m still practicing.
Handel’s Largo, as it is popularly known, is actually a Larghetto tempo, slightly faster than Largo. The opera was designed to be a comedy with Xerxes, a Persian King, falling in love with a Plane Tree. Regardless of the original intent, the interlude above along with the aria Ombra Mai Fu is not only one of the most beautiful compositions in classical music, but has also been adapted with lyrics and performed as “Holy Art Thou” in Christian Churches.