For this week’s Handel playlist, we asked the musicians from our Handel House Talent scheme (past and present) to give us their favourite piece of music from the Baroque era.

If you didn’t know already Handel House Talent is our scheme to further the development of promising young Baroque music performers at the start of their professional career.

We can’t wait to be able to host concerts by our fantastic rosta of musicians in Handel House again, but for the time being enjoy listening to their selections!

It’s only fitting that the playlist starts and ends with Handel, and you can listen to it here or scroll down to find out a bit more about why each musician chose each piece:

Emma Stannard (mezzo-soprano, Handel House Talent 2018-19) 

Emma Stannard (mezzo-soprano)
‘Dopo Notte’ from Handel’s Ariodante, HWV 33 

There were so many pieces I could have chosen, but I have decided to go for ‘Dopo Notte’ from Handel’s Ariodante: it is impossible not to drop everything and sing along when I hear this aria. It’s vibrancy has fuelled my passion for Baroque music for as long as I can remember and it never ceases to inspire me.   

Gwen Martin (soprano, Handel House Talent 2017-18) 

Portrait of soprano Gwen Martin
Johann Sebastian Bach – ‘Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer’ from Oster-Oratorium, BWV 249

I love the way Bach writes for recorders and the voice and sets the text here so beautifully. His warm and reassuring textural writing makes me feel like I’m taking a relaxing bath when I hear it. It gently rocks you into a place of reassurance and peace.   

Mafalda Ramos (flautist, Handel House Talent 2018-19) 

Mafalda Ramos (flute)
Monsieur de Sainte Colombe – ‘Le Retour’ from Concerts de Violes Esgales  

Sainte Colombe is, still today, an intriguing yet incredibly relevant figure in French Baroque music. Believed to have been the teacher of Marin Marais, the man Rousseau credited for the addition of the seventh string on the viola da gamba has seen a dramatization of his life in the well-known film Tous les Matins du Monde (1991). The movie, based on a book of the same title, portrays Sainte Colombe as a very melancholic, secluded and nostalgic person. Although this is a dramatization and we don’t actually have many details about his life, it is true that a subtle melancholy always floats around his music. 

‘Le Retour’ has been a faithful companion throughout my musical life and a piece that is always good to return too, as it is full of good memories. It’s joyful opening, intertwined with more sorrowful moments brings me a sense of calm that few pieces achieve. The minuet, which is repeated in two moments, is one of the most simple, yet most meaningful pieces of music and brings a beautiful sense of fulfillment and arrival. If I were to translate it onto words, ‘Le Retour’ (lit. the return), would be translated as a journey where at the end we are received with open arms, and we truly feel that everything will be alright. 

Satoko Doi-Luck (harpsichordist, HHT 2015-16) 

Satoko Doi-Luck (harpsichord)
Jean-Philippe Rameau – ‘Entrée de Polymnie’ from Les Boréades

It was like a lightening shock when I first heard it, but a very gentle and soothing one at the same time. The harmony, and all the interwoven texture, Rameau’s writing of inner parts is just extraordinary, not only this piece but in all his music. I fell in love with French Baroque (hence my group Ensemble Molière), and I include French repertoire in my solo recitals when I can.  

Jonatan Bougt (theorbist, Handel House Talent 2019-20)

Jonatan Bougt (theorbo)
Giulio Caccini – Amarilli, mia bella

Here’s a recording of Amarilli Mia Bella with Philippe Jaroussky which has followed me throughout the years. Like quite a few people who are interested in the early Baroque, Amarilli Mia Bella is probably one of the first songs from Caccini’s Le Nuove Musiche that one finds, and I was no exception to that. I listen to a lot of music for reference but this recording I regularly come back to just to listen to the utter beauty of Jaroussky’s voice.

Alice Earll (violinist, Handel House Talent 2018-19) 

Alice Earll (violin)
Johann Sebastian Bach – ‘Ciaccona’ from Partita No 2 in D minor BWV 1004

The piece of music that inspires me is the ‘Ciaccona’ from J.S. Bach’s Partita No 2 in D minor, BWV 1004. When I was 9 or 10, I remember watching a performance of Itzhak Perlman on TV playing for a Holocaust memorial documentary and wanting to be able to play something so powerful and so moving. The way you react to music is always evolving and more recently, I was listening to the The Open Ears Project podcast with Clemency Burton-Hill and stumbled across an episode discussing the Bach Ciaccona with rapper Dessa, and marvelled that this piece is still so relevant and resonant, and was given the joy of listening to this piece again but with new ears. 

Abel Balazs (Violinist, HHT 2019-20)

Abel Balazs (violin)
Johann Sebastian Bach – Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042

It’s really hard to choose just one piece of music that inspired or influenced me, but I do remember the first time I ever listened to recordings of Bach’s violin concertos on period instruments and in particular the E major concerto BWV 1042. I was in my early teens when I was first introduced to recordings of it on period instruments and I remember initially being a bit confused by the lower pitch, as at that point I had developed perfect pitch, but other than that, it felt like a lightbulb moment. All of a sudden the music made so much more sense because of the instrument setup and the style these “historically informed” musicians performed in. 

In between the two bright E major outer movements of BWV 1042, sits the Adagio in the rather distant and emotionally painful key of c-sharp minor. In my opinion, it’s one of the best examples of how emotionally charged Baroque music without words can be. Among other works, I think this concerto was one of those that cemented the decision that I’d want to be a musician and particularly a violinist. 

Octavie Dostaler-Lalonde (cellist, Handel House Talent 2017-18) 

Portrait of Viola da Gamba player Octavie Dostaler-Lalonde
Henry Purcell – ‘O let me weep’ from The Fairy Queen, Z.629

I used to listen to this a lot during a certain period a few years back. I would play it in my headphones while walking in the cold winter nights back in Montreal.  

Lucia Capellaro (cellist, HHT 2019-20) 

Lucia Capellaro (cello)
Jean-Baptiste de Bousset – Pourquoy, Doux Rossignol 

This piece is basically the equivalent of a pop song from 17th-century France. It is about a nightingale and unrequited love, and written is on a ground bass. 

Marta López Fernández (harpsichordist, Handel House Talent 2017-18) 

Portrait of Marta López Fernández , harpsichordist and Handel House Talent musician for 2018
Johann Sebastian Bach – Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248

Growing up I became fascinated by Baroque music through Bach keyboard pieces but it wasn’t until I learnt and listened to his master vocal works that I understood the magnitude of this genius composer. This work in particular is one of the latest I’ve been lucky enough to perform more recently as a continuo player and, putting behind us a silenced Passion season, is a great example of the celebratory and joyful Bach that we all need now, and perhaps better times to look forward to.

Frances Gregory (soprano, Handel House Talent 2019-20) 

Frances Gregory (mezzo-soprano)
George Frideric Handel – ‘Awake Saturnia!…Iris, hence away’ from Semele, HWV 58 

This is a special piece for me as Laurence Cummings conducted our performances of Semele at the Royal Academy of Music, and it was my first time working with him!