Concerto for Organ and Orchestra in F Major, Op. 4, No. 5 (HWV 293)

by Max Derrickson

George Frederic Handel
(Born in Halle, Germany in 1685; died in London in 1759)

Concerto for Organ and Orchestra in F Major, Op. 4, No. 5 (HWV 293)
1. Larghetto
2. Allegro
3. Alla siciliana
4. Presto

Between 1735-1736 Handel composed four English Oratorios that were each premiered in Covent Garden in London: Esther, Deborah, and Athalia in 1735, and Alexander’sFeast in 1736.  However, they faced stiff competition from other opera companies in town: Oratorios alone weren’t going to be enough to fetch audiences.  Handel, therefore, widely celebrated as the greatest organist of his day, created six concertos for “Chamber Organ and Orchestra” to be played as interludes between various sections of these four Oratorios, and to show off his own prowess on the organ.

His virtuoso talents certainly helped promote sales at Covent Gardens, but the music that Handel wrote for himself to perform in these great concerti is some of the great music of the Baroque.  True to Handel’s talent as an organist and composer, the solo parts are exquisite and the orchestra parts enchanting, and as far as we know, it was Handel who here invented this pairing of organ with orchestra in the concerto form.   

Concerto No. 5 was written in 1735 for the revival of Deborah and is one of the great works of its time.  The opening Larghetto is a soft and gentle thing of beauty, mostly played by solo organ.  The bright and crisp Allegro is followed by the “Alla siciliana” which is […] Presto is a lively way to show off the technical prowess of the organist and conclude this all too brief and beautiful masterpiece.