Lockdown Handel

Lockdown: performing on paper or creating a new Handel edition

Handel Cantata
Drawing by Ella Bodeker

A group of students from Guildhall School’s Historical Performance department decided that they would not let the lockdown hinder their learning and fun, and transformed a performance project into the creation of a new exciting edition of one of Handel’s lesser known gems, the cantata Mi palpita il cor. 

Download the scores and parts via IMSLP

During his youth, Handel composed a large collection of beautiful cantatas, highly influenced by his formative journey to Italy. Handel wrote Mi palpita il cor sometime around the time of his arrival in London in 1710. 

Replacing the usual face-to-face performance classes with Zoom meeting, the Historical Performance department’s students and junior fellows Thomas Allery, Hannah Blumsohn, Ella Bodeker, Jens Franke, Lucy Neil and Jorge Silva worked under the direction of professors Nicholas Parle and Dionysios Kyropoulos to create a musical edition.

Since the pandemic did not let them perform, the students decided that the edition they create should be aimed at the broadest audience possible, hopefully allowing a large number of performers to discover and perform this beautiful piece. So, from the very start, they strove to create two editions: an critical edition (without extra editorial suggestions), as well as a performance edition, incorporating performance and editorial suggestions, making it accessible to anyone wishing to perform this work, regardless of whether or not they had specialist historical performance training.  

The Guildhall students based their work on Handel’s own autograph manuscripts, digitised by the British Library and the Foundling Museum. Whilst everyone was responsible for the edition as a whole, students and fellows were able to use their specialist training to work upon specific areas: for example, the harpsichord students did the majority of the work on creating a new realisation of the figured bass so it can be played by modern pianists without specialist knowledge, and the singing parts include translations in both English and French, to make rehearsal and performance easier to a greater number of singers. 

Included with the musical scores is a preface outlining the history of the work, in addition to a detailed analysis of the process and methods undertaken to create the edition.  

Lucy Neil, Junior Fellow (cello), said on preparing the preface for the edition: “It was fascinating to delve deeper into Handel’s past and to learn more about his somewhat saucy, bohemian youth in Italy! Having the time and the opportunity to research Handel, study scores written in his own hand, and to partake in the creation of a new edition of such an incredible work was a brilliant opportunity that I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of – certainly not what I expected to be spending my final term at Guildhall doing, but very worthwhile nonetheless!" 

Dr Christopher Suckling, Head of Historical Performance at Guildhall School, says: “When lockdown led to the cancellation of all our remaining performance work, other musical doors were opened. Having the time and space to play with music in the kind of depth that producing an edition requires has been transformative. The result is something unique; not just another critical edition, but an opinionated performing edition in which the students reveal the processes through which they themselves have learned. This edition is a lockdown performance – an expression of both the students’ musicianship and the dedication of the professors who have supported them through this challenging term.” 

Handel’s  Mi palpita il cor 

1) Critical edition: 

2) Performance edition: 

3) Vocal study guides: