Handel's Viola Concerto is a quite popular work among viola players, some like it, others hate it. Unfortunately, it is also often considered only as "study material" and therefore ill-treated and not made really enjoyable.
This concerto was not actually composed by Handel, although he could have well written it.
Indeed, in some of his operas he gave the violas an important role and composed some arias with solo viola accompaniment.
Not everybody knows the story behind, anyway here it is.
This concerto was composed about 200 years after Handel's time, by Henri Casadesus (1879-1947).
Casadesus was a French composer, viola and viola d'amore player and publisher. With his family he had formed a Society of Ancient Instruments and, in addition to rediscovering music by old masters, he composed some new ones.
He did what also Fritz Kreisler
did with the violin, composing a lot of works and passing them off as
little-known works by Baroque composers. However, for some reason,
Casadesus' works, unlike Kreisler's, are usually less known and
belittled, instead of being considered as some original, clever
compositions. Maybe is it because he played the viola and composed for
Anyway, I think it was a brilliant invention, it is a nice compostition "in Baroque style".
The concerto is in three movements, Allegro moderato, Andante,
Allegro molto. The orchestra is composed of strings only with flute and
Here you can hear the viola concerto, played by William Primrose. I chose this recording because I find it more lively and interesting than others. I also like that Primrose plays embellishements, some little trills here and there. It is very energetic and it is quite jolly even though the concerto is in a minor key.
Handel/Casadesus Viola concerto
This concerto reminds me of Bach's orchestral Suite n.2 which is also in B minor and has a solo flute.
In this Handel's concerto you can hear the solo viola often play softly, piano, accompanied by flute and basson. The solo viola and the orchestra are balanced, the viola is not overwhelmed by the orchestra.
I think this work is an original addition to the "Baroque" viola repertoire, very enjoyable for both viola players and for listeners. It is suitable for players of intermediate level.
If you wish to play Handel's viola concerto, you don't have the problem of which edition to choose. There is only one edition of Handel's viola concerto, because the concerto is not in the public domain.
From here you can buy all the sheet music necessary, with viola and piano parts as well as orchestra score and parts.
Click on the pictures, you'll go to a page where you'll be able to see a larger preview of the viola solo part for all the movements.
And then, if you want to enjoy the company of Handel you can buy a poster with his portrait, for your home, school or office.