Combattimento Consort Amsterdam

Concerti Grossi op. 3

Format: SACD
Label: Challenge Classics
UPC: 0608917214024
Catnr: CC 72140
Release date: 10 October 2005
Challenge Classics
Catalogue number
CC 72140
Release date
10 October 2005

About the album

G.F. Händel - Concerti grossi op. 3

In the first decades of the eighteenth century, London was one of the most important European music centres. There was a rich courtly life as well as a great deal of music-making among the bourgeoisie. Just like Amsterdam, London was a hub of music publishers and instrument builders. London’s musical life had a strong Italian orientation. It was mainly the Italian composers who were successful there, especially Arcangelo Corelli. Although his oeuvre is limited to instrumental music and only has six opus numbers, his influence was considerable. For example, the London-based Italian Francesco Geminiani made orchestral arrangements of Corelli’s violin sonatas opus 5. Geminiani’s Concerti grossi opus 1 and Corelli’s own Concerti grossi opus 6 were published in many different arrangements. Born in Halle, Germany, composer George Frideric Handel started in his hometown as an organist, and settled more or less permanently in London in 1717. By then he already had a career in Italy, where he was very successful as a young composer and kept company with the likes of Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti. Handel saw himself primarily as a composer of vocal music. He had written several operas, which had been performed to much acclaim in Italy and Germany. His first opera, Almira, which has Italian as well as German arias and recitatives, was premiered as early as 1705 in Hamburg. In Italy he learned a great deal about opera from Alessandro Scarlatti, and audiences in that country were wildly enthusiastic about his operas.

In London, Handel built a true opera empire. He was not only the composer and conductor of the performances, but also manager and theatre director. He headed the Royal Academy of Music, an initiative of several wealthy royal opera lovers. The first years, Handel was the big musical attraction of London, and it seemed as if everything he touched turned into gold. If one opera wasn’t quite successful, there would soon be a new one that would be. Handel was also good at getting the best Italian sopranos and castrati to work with his company.

The tide turned around 1730. Some of Handel’s works flopped, including Lotario from 1729, for which he had high expectations. He also faced heavy competition from another opera company. All of a sudden the English had had enough of the long virtuoso arias Handel wrote, and he ended up in a financial crisis.

His publisher John Walsh advised Handel to start writing instrumental music, given that there was an enormous market for it in London. In 1730, without the composer’s knowledge, Walsh published a collection of twelve sonatas that was avidly sold. There was much music-making in London in small circles on all kinds of instruments, and wealthy citizens who could afford instruments and sheet music were also interested in musical novelties. Because Handel had been so popular in London as an opera composer, much money was to be made in sales of his chamber music. After all, London audiences were not so much saturated with the composer himself as with the Italian Opera Seria genre.

With his Concerti grossi opus 3, published in 1734, Handel proved to be a master in this instrumental genre for larger settings too. It seems that in these concerti as well as in the organ concerti opus 4, Handel interpolated a break between two important compositional periods of his life: the Italian operas (until about 1730) and the large English oratorios (starting in 1739). The most salient aspect of these concerti is the way in which Handel used existing vocal works. Using existing material was certainly no admission of weakness on the part of the composer: nearly all his contemporaries did it to some degree. And thus in his Concerti grossi opus 3 Handel incorporated parts of this first oratorio Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (concerto no. 1), Brockes’ Passion (no. 2), several of his Chandos Anthems (nos. 3 and 5) and the opera Ottone (no. 6). The fourth concerto, which starts with a stately Frenchstyle overture, is the only one in the series that was written by Handel as one whole, in other words not based on parts of older compositions. It was not entirely new either, because Handel had already used it once as an instrumental interlude in his opera Amadigi. When, starting in 1739, Handel was enjoying success in London with his large English oratorios, he used the concerti grossi again as interludes in oratorio performances. Just like Bach, who wrote his Mass in B Minor almost entirely on the basis of music from his secular cantatas, Handel was a composer who dealt with his material in an economical fashion.

In his Concerti grossi opus 3, Handel makes optimal use of the possibilities of the genre. A feature of the concerto grosso is that the orchestra consists of a solo group, the concertino, and a tutti group, the ripieno. Corelli and Geminiani used two violins and a cello as concertino, and Handel did the same in his twelve Concerti grossi opus 6 from 1739. In the opus 3 however he varies the concertino per concerto. The oboe is the main solo instrument, even more so than the violin. A concertino for two oboes and bassoon forms the counterpart to the string concertino of two violins and cello. In the third concerto we also hear an important flute solo, and the sixth concerto ends with a section for solo organ. In this way, these concerts already anticipate Handel’s organ concerti, given that these are also works he used as instrumental intermezzi in his oratorios – in which he naturally played the organ part himself.

There are also remarkable combinations of solo instruments, such as oboe with two recorders and oboe with two cellos in the second concerto. With respect to form too, Handel moulded the genre of the concerto grosso. He created a synthesis between the various national styles, with a multicoloured variety of French dances and German fugues in ever-changing orders per concerto. But the ultimate Italian example, in this case Arcangelo Corelli, is never too far-removed from Handel’s Concerti grossi.

Marcel Bijlo, March 2005
Ruth Rose, Muse Translations

Händels Concerti Grossi in de Combattimentostijl
George Frideric Händels Concerti Grossi opus 6 worden hier door het Combattimento Consort Amsterdam uitgevoerd, onder leiding van zijn oprichter Jan Willem de Vriend.

Het Combattimento Consort Amsterdam heeft bestaan van 1982 tot 2013 en werd door De Vriend opgericht, die zowel als violist als als artistiek leidinggevende was. Het ensembles repertoire omvatte vooral stukken uit de jaren 1600 tot 1800. In 2007 hebben zij Arminio uitgevoerd; de enige opera van Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber die bewaard is gebleven. Gedurende hun bestaan hebben ze een eigen manier van spelen ontwikkeld, onder andere herkenbaar door oude muziek op hedendaagse instrumenten te spelen i.t.t. veel ensembles die op historische instrumenten spelen. Het consort is in 2014 in gewijzigde samenstelling doorgegaan onder de naam Combattimento.

In de 12 Concerti Grossi opus 6 van Händel werden voor het eerst gepubliceerd in 1739. In de Concerti staan verschillende structuren en de grote diversiteit aan stijlen voorop: samen met Bachs Brandenburgse concertenworden ze hierdoor beschouwd als een van de grote monumenten van de instrumentale muziek uit de Barok. Händels werk is gebaseerd op werken van Arcangelo Corelli, en is geschreven voor een concertino trio voor twee violen en cello, die gepaard gaan met een strijkkwartet en begeleiding van klavecimbel.


As of January 2014, Combattimento Consort Amsterdam will seize to exist. Founder and artistic leader Jan Willem de Vriend has decided to give full focus to his conducting activities. The other members of the ensemble have decided to continue under the name Combattimento. More information about them is to be found at

Founded in 1982 by violinist Jan Willem de Vriend, the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam developed into a close-knit ensemble specialising in music from 1600-1800.

The musicians' wish not to focus solely on the standard repertoire resulted in many interesting programmes featuring remarkable and little-known works, some of which were only available in manuscript. The performance of these compositions in conjunction with more familiar works proved to be refreshing and inspiring to listeners and performers alike.

Over the years the ensemble gave many memorable concerts and operatic performances including Handel’s Rodelinda, Alcina, also by Handel, and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, in collaboration with De Nationale Reisopera.

In September 2002 the ensemble made its debut at the Early Music Holland Festival in Utrecht, giving two performances of Rameau's opera Platée in a co-production with Onafhankelijk Toneel and the Nationale Reisopera.

In addition to numerous concerts in the Netherlands, the Combattimento Consort also appeared in various European countries and in venues outside of Europe. Successful tours in the United States, Japan and South America have always been attracting attention in national and international media.
Concerts often had solo performances by members of the ensemble, but the Combattimento Consort also worked with great performers such as Barbara Bonney, Andreas Scholl and Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Thomas Zehetmair and Sabine Meyer as well as joining forces with Collegium Vocale Gent and other groups.

Several recordings have won the highest praise of the Dutch music magazine 'Luister'. Over the years, the ensemble made numerous CD recordings, including Handels La Resurrezione. Another recent production is Der Stein der Weisen. This opera had its premiere in the Wielki Theatre in Lodz (Poland; 2003), and after that it toured in The Netherlands and Flanders. In 2004 the Combattimento Consort toured through Central Europe and The Netherlands with Handel’s opera Agrippina, the largest cultural project within the Netherlands Presidency of the European Union.

Jan Willem de Vriend
Jan Willem de Vriend is the artistic director of Combattimento Consort Amsterdam and since 2006 the chief conductor and artistic director of the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra.

Combattimento Consort Amsterdam devotes itself to the music of about 1600 to 1830. Since its founding in 1982, it has performed virtually throughout the world as well as on many CDs, DVDs and television productions. For decades, Combattimento Consort Amsterdam has had its own concert series at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in which many entirely unknown – and mostly unpublished – pieces are performed alongside more familiar works, such as the yearly Matthaus Passion and Weihnachtsoratorium by Bach. Their 25th anniversary in 2007 was celebrated with the impressive project of Bibers Missa Salisburgensis, for the very first time in the original version with 4 organs and as many choirs.

In addition to having served as concertmaster with various ensembles, De Vriend developed a career as a conductor with several orchestras both in The Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy Germany, Sweden, as well as China and Australia. Opera conducting has come to play a significant role. He has led Combattimento Consort Amsterdam in unknown operas by Gassmann, Rameau, Heinchen and Haydn, among others, as well as familiar operas by such composers as Monteverdi, Handel, Rossini and Mozart. For the opera houses of Lucern, Strasbourg, Barcelona and Enschede, he has conducted operas by Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Strauss and others.
He was invited by the Stanislavsky Theatre of Moscow to conduct an opera by Handel.

Since De Vriend was named chief conductor in 2006, the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra has become a notable phenomenon on the Netherlands’ musical scene. It has presented semi-scenic performances of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss and Mendelssohn. There were premieres of works by Offenbach, Say and Mahler. And by substituting historical instruments in the brass section, it has developed its own distinctive sound in the 18th- and 19th-century repertoire. The orchestra performed music by Schumann at festivals in Spain and recorded Beethoven’s complete symphonies conducted by De Vriend. Its long Mahler tradition is being continued in recordings and tours.

De Vriend was awarded the Dutch Radio 4 Prize of the year 2012. The Radio 4 Prize is awarded to a musician (or ensemble or institution) who has distinguished himself in bringing classical music to a broad public.


Play album
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 1 in B Flat Major: I. Allegro
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 1 in B Flat Major: II. Largo
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 1 in B Flat Major: III. Allegro
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 2 in B Flat Major: I. Vivace
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 2 in B Flat Major: II. Largo
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 2 in B Flat Major: III. Allegro
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 2 in B Flat Major: IV. (Moderato)
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 2 in B Flat Major: V. (Allegro)
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 3 in G Major: I. Largo e Staccato
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 3 in G Major: II. Allegro
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 3 in G Major: III. Adagio
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 3 in G Major: IV. Allegro
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 4 in F Major: I. Andante - Allegro Lentamente
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 4 in F Major: II. Andante
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 4 in F Major: III. Allegro
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 4 in F Major: IV. Minuetto
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 5 in D Minor: I. (Largo)
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 5 in D Minor: II. Allegro
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 5 in D Minor: III. Adagio
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 5 in D Minor: IV. Allegro Ma Non Troppo
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 5 in D Minor: V. Allegro
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 6 in D Major: I. Vivace
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 6 in D Major: II. Cadenza
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 6 in D Major: III. Allegro
show all tracks

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