The ‘Musick’

The sixteen programmes give an excellent picture of the variety of repertory in circulation at that time, and also an indication of the manner of early eighteenth-century concert planning. They include between nine and thirteen pieces. One concert is divided into three ‘Acts’, the others into two.

 An overview of named composers shows a relatively small list, but the mix of nationalities and the variety of musical styles are notable:

Alberti, Arne, Corelli, Gastrucci [= Castrucci], Felton, Geminiani, Handel, Hasse, [Hayden], [Howard], Humphreys [or Humphries],Sammartini, Tessarini, Vivaldi.

 Two composers are deduced from the titles of their works or from the first line of the text: 

-       ‘Overture to The Amorous Goddess’ is considered to be that of Samuel Howard (14/16)

-       ‘“Thyrsis”, a Cantata’is the second of George Hayden’sThree Cantatas* (8/16)

-        ‘cantata, “On the coast of Argos”, the first recitative from Neptune and Amymone, the third of  George Hayden’sThree Cantatas*(9/16)

(*I am very grateful to Michael Talbot for these identifications).

 More open to interpretation are:

‘Luzinga, violin’ and ‘Lees sonata’. 

Neither is thought to refer to a composer (see programme notes for 3/16and 4/16).

 Other composers, although not named in the records, may serve in the process of filling out such minimalistic descriptions as ‘songs’, ‘violin solos’, and ‘harpsichord Lessons’. Possible candidates, well known and with editions widely distributed throughout the British Isles, include:

 Dr. Green(e) (M. Greene, Maurice Greene), John Pepusch, Pietro Giuseppe Gaetano Boni, Michele Mascitti, William Babell, Johann Friedrich Lampe….

 Although in the programmes, Handel is not directly accredited to any of the Overtures, all but one are easily recognised as the titles of his Operas and Oratorios (shown here in the form they are known by today):

Acis & Galatea, Admeto, Alcina, Alessandro, Ariodante, Atalanta, Catone, Deidamia, Esther, Flavio, Giulio Cesare, Lotario, Muzio Scevola, Ottone, Messiah, Partenope, Ricardo primo, Radamisto,Rodelinda, Samson, Saul, Scipione, Tamerlano. (• listed in two programmes).

There are thirty Overtures distributed throughout the sixteen programmes (this excludes Howard’s ‘Overture to The Amorous Goddess’). From a total of the twenty-four titles, each concert contains at least one, mostly two and on the last occasion three Overtures.

 Harland’s detailed transcript of the record book confirms Handel’s attribution:

‘Belonging to yeConcert: The stage, musick desks, and benches, with yesconce for candles. Handel’s Overtures, compleat;…’

as do the disbursements at the end of the first quarter: 

‘48 Overtures by Handel, £2. 7s’

The Overtures owned by ‘yeConcert’are most likely to be keyboard arrangements. The versions described by Walsh as ‘fitted to the Harpsichord or Spinnet’ were published in many different collations from the late 1720s.  It seems likely that the reference to 48 overtures is to the eight volumes of Walsh’s Six Overtures(totalling 48). On the front cover of the ‘Eighth Collection’ that are ‘fitted to the Harpsichord or Spinnet’ there is a ‘new’ advertisement for ‘Handel’s 48 Overtures, &c…Musick just Publish’d’.

  The London Daily Postannounces another Walsh edition, Handel’s Celebrated Water Music Compleat. Set for the Harpsichord,also listing ‘Handel’s 48 Overtures’ at the bottomandthe Eighth Collection of Six Overtures, advertised later in the same year (Dec. 2, 1743) by the Daily Advertiser.

Six Overtures fitted to the Harpsichord ….(William C. Smith  Handel, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Early Editions , New York (1970), p. 284).

Six Overtures fitted to the Harpsichord….(William C. Smith Handel, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Early Editions, New York (1970), p. 284).

One of the professionalperformersin the 1744/45 Manchester series can be identified as an accomplished and recognised keyboard player. All considered, a ‘solo’ performance on the harpsichord is likely to have taken place.

Handel and Corelli

 The music of Handel and Corelli clearly forms the backbone of each of the sixteen Manchester programmes. Listed after ‘Handel’s Overtures, compleat’ are:

‘Corelli’s Concertos; Geminiani’s Concertos; Fellow’s Concertos, stolen or strayed.’

 In addition to twenty-four Overtures, Handel is named in references to his ‘third’, ‘fourth’, ‘fifth’ and ‘sixth’ Organ Concertos, the ‘water musick’ and his ‘Fifth grand Concerto’. 

 The numbers of direct or indirect references to the composers are: 

Handel (37), Corelli (22), Tessarini (9), Geminiani (8)

As with the music of Handel, atleast one piece by Corelli is included in every concert. Two programmes show two pieces, and in the first quarter there are two concerts featuring three of his works. Of these twenty-two references, ten specifically refer to concertos.Since Corelli published only one set of concertos, ‘[12] Concerti grossi...Op. 6’, identification is without doubt. ‘Corelli’s Concertos’ are accounted for at the end of the first quarter, costing 15s.

 The linking of music by Corelli and Handel, popular and normal as it is today, was also historical. Eighteenth-century manuscript books of the composers’ works are combined. One in particular,found in the book rarities of the Newman Flower Collection, contains ‘Manchester’ ornaments for Corelli’s Violin Sonatas. Op. 5. Corelli’s sonatas were immensely popular with violinists in the eighteenth century and many made their own ornamented versions. This is the original source of these particular ornaments which are unique to Manchester. They are followed in the same volumeby fifteen Handel arias autographed by John ChristopherSmith junior (Handel’scopyist/legatee). These arias originate from nine different operas, the Overtures of which are all listed in the Manchester 1744/45 programmes. It is a manuscript copy made after the publication of the operas, known to pre-date the concert series. 

 Collectors also bound together printed scores of Handel and Corelli. This can be seen in other collections now in Manchester, for example in books from Edward Weld (Ludworth Castle, eighteenth-century) and Fuller Maitland (London, nineteenth-century). In present times, music of both composers is frequently performed in the same concerts and recorded on the same albums. This is certainly apt, knowing that these two eminent musicians played together in Rome in the early eighteenthcentury. 

‘Arcangelo Corelli and George Fred. Handel’, (Gabrielle Enthoven Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum).

‘Arcangelo Corelli and George Fred. Handel’, (Gabrielle Enthoven Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum).


 The number of Geminiani’s compositions in the Manchester programmes is somewhat modest, compared to that of his former teacher Corelli. The concert programmes list thefirst’ throughto the sixth of Geminiani’in six successive concerts between December 1744 and April 1745.

Severalcollections of Geminiani’s Concerti Grossi, including orchestral arrangements of Corelli’s violin sonatas and trio sonatas were published in London between 1732 and 1739. This means that the reference to ‘Geminiani’s Concertos’ also belonging to yeConcert’ which appears at the beginning of the record book, is open to interpretation. 

At the end of the second quarter, a costing for Geminiani’s Concertos and binding £2. 17s.’ may indicate the acquisition of another collection. This would explain the addition of an opus number in one of the programmes later in the series, ‘fourth of Geminiani (opera fifth)’. It is thought that this refers to his re-working of Corelli’s XII Sonata’s or Solo’s for a Violin a Bass Violin or Harpsichord ... his fifth Opera....

 The last reference to concertos quoted by Harland as ‘belonging to yeconcert’are ‘…Fellow’s Concertos, stolen or strayed’. William Felton was a Mancunian composer who’s name may have been recognised but incorrectly noted by John Harland (‘Fellow’s’ rather than Felton’s Concertos’). Felton was indeed known for his ‘borrowings’ and he has been linked with the description ‘stolen or strayed’.[i]  This phrase may also refer to the general climate of piracy rife in publishing houses of the time as well as the frequent appropriation or copying between composers, of their own or other’s music. 


 Tessarini’s music occurs frequently in the 1744/45 series. Seven programmes feature a total of nine of his works and two concerts include two of his pieces each. Although this ‘Italian’ is mostly as little known today as Harland thought he was in the nineteenth century, his music was popular in the eighteenth century and is very well represented in these Manchester concerts. Four programmes refer to his concertos, others are unspecific and may refer to Sonatas.

 The numbering of Tessarini’s early works is surrounded by confusion: two different collections of music for both Opus 1 and Opus 2 exist. Those published in London are the most likely to have been played in the Manchester concert series. 

 In Tessarini’s ‘official’ Opus 2, Il maestro e discepolo, published a few years later in Urbino (1734), there is an extra page after the dedication warning of ‘unauthorised’ editions in England and the Netherlands that had not been approved for publication. Dutch and English publishers are known to have pirated Tessarini’s music in the eighteenth century. Walsh published Concerti a Cinque… Carlo Tessarini di Rimini... Virtuoso di Violino... Opus 1, in London [1726/7]. This is an exact copy of Le Cène’s edition (1724/25)and was published without the composer’s consent. John Young sold this London edition with his address label covering the original publication details. This is considered the music and the source for the Tessarini ‘concerto’ references in the Manchester programmes.

 A ‘pirated’ version of [12] Sonatas for Solo Violin (originally published by Tessarini, as Op. 1,Venice) was arranged for solo flute and published by Le Cène in Amsterdam, as Opus 2 in 1729. In the same year, this edition was ‘announced’ and published by John Walsh in London. The arrangement of violin sonatas for the so-called German flute reflects the increasing popularity of the transverse flute at this time; this, together with the omnipresence of flute repertory in the Manchester concert programmes, makes this collection a viable choice for realising these pieces. Tessarini’s ‘authorised’ publications appeared in Italy and Paris and are less likely to have been performed in the series.

 Other composers featured in the series are listed here by the frequency of their appearance: 

Humphreys (5), Castrucci (2), Felton (2), Hasse (2), [Hayden] (2), Alberti (1), Arne (1), [Howard] (1), Sammartini (1), Vivaldi (1).

 Information about the specified or selected compositions of these and other ‘un-named’ composers, chosen for reconstruction purposes will follow in the individual programme notes of the Manchester Baroque concerts. 


 Certain descriptions of the ‘musick’ which are unclear and appear frequently include:


The voice features in all but two of the programmes. The terminology used is always ‘song’ but this is not light-weight in its meaning. In many English eighteenth-century editions, Arias such as those composed and performed by Handel are simply referred to as Songs. There are a vast number of publications, for example those of Handel, with titles such as The Most Celebrated Songs in…. or The Favorite Songs in the Opera call’d.... Although also referring to folk and drinking songs, this all-encompassing term includes arias from operas, oratorios and cantatas. There are also references to ‘duets’, mostly for violins but in one instance with the instruction ‘duet-song’.


In the Manchester programmes this title is always linked with the harpsichord (although in general it can refer to other instruments, for example the violin). It is a common all-purpose eighteenth-century title, by no means necessarily implying a small-scale or instructive work. It is often a collective term referring to suites, or sonatas da cameraand da chiesasuch as, for example, the harpsichord sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti published in London in 1739. Also confusing is that the title can also be used for individual movements, or even arrangements of ‘songs’.[ii]

 German Flute 

 In the sixteen programmes there are nineteen references to the German flute (now known as the transverse flute). Only one concert seems to be without it. Some of the entries specify Sonatas and others Concertos, but the vast majority leave the selection of repertory open. The German flute, a term that distinguishes it from the recorder or ‘small flute’, was very popular in England in the 1740s and its music is featured throughout the Manchester concert series. 

[i]Peter Lynan, Musica Britanica94. W. Felton concerto(London: Stainer & Bell, 2013), p. xxvii.

[ii]  Arrangements of Handel Arias and various Minuets composed by John Reading and others are described as Lessons: ‘Reading’s Book of Lessons for the Harpsicord [sic.]’ (Manchester: Manchester Central Library, MS 710.5 Rf31). 

5  Jennifer Burchell, Polite or Commercial Concerts? Concert Management and Orchestral Repertoire in Edinburgh, Bath, Oxford, Manchester and Newcastle, 1730-1799 (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1996), p. 252.