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Handel, Carmelite Vespers

Handel's Carmelite Vespers or The Roman Vespers of 1707 is not a title
that was used by Handel, it's a title that has been given to a collection
of works by Handel believed to have been composed for a festival of Our
Lady of Mount Carmel in 1707 which include in the main :-

Dixit Dominus (Psalm 110) HWV232
Laudate pueri Dominum (Psalm 112) HWV237
Nisi Dominus (Psalm 127) HWV238

There are also antiphons and a motet.

However I have issues with one particular edition, and that is the one
produced by the University of Cardiff in 1985 (Ian Chelvertin, Robert
Court, and Robin Stowell.

I believe that they have erroneously split the work into two sections

Part 1
Motet: Serviet Tellus
Antiphon Haec est Regina Virginum
Salve Regina

Part 2
Dixit Dominus (Psalm 110) HWV232
Laudate pueri Dominum (Psalm 112) HWV237
Nisi Dominus (Psalm 127) HWV238

Omitted completely is Te Decus Virgineum because it wasn't available at
the time.

Included for some obscure reason are an Overture and Organ Sonata, which
obviously have nothing to do with the office of Vespers. (Is this padding
for publication?).

I feel that the proper order for vespers as in other editions are

Dixit Dominus
Te Decus Virgineum
Laudate pueri Dominum
Nisi Dominus
Haec est Regina Virginum
Serviet Tellus
Salve Regina

All within the other plainsong sections for the office of Vespers.

The questions I am asking is - Is there any valid reason for the
inclusion of an Overture and an Organ Sonata, which is clearly not part
ov Vespers, in a work that seems to be somewhat dubiously compiled as the
Cardiff University edition? And why the need for their somewhat ludicrous

Thank you

Rod Mather

Here is a compilation of the responses that I received for the questions
that I raised. You have all been most helpful and I thank you for your

Hi Rod,

This is interesting!

I'm in the middle of some extensive research and writing about Messiah;
during my reading I've learned that instrumental concerti and other works
were often included on the program ALONG WITH entire oratorios. The
premiere of Messiah included at least one organ concerto, I believe (I'm
away from my desk and can't check my notes).

You might want to consult a good biography of Handel (such as the one by
Lang) that offers detail on the specific works offered at premieres, etc.
Perhaps this editor has reconstructed the festival program, although (in
my opinion) a good editor would include an explanatory preface.

Sorry I can't address the order.

Hope this is helpful.


Hi, Rod. Obviously I don't have the music and haven't done the research
you have in comparing editions, so I can't speak directly to your
questions. However, a couple of things do come to mind. Firstly, if this
collection is indeed a pastiche as you suggest, how in the world can you
then fault the splitting of the collection into two sections? I'm sure
you have a good reason, but I can't intuit it. And again, isn't it
possible that instead of taking the order in which a vespers service
would normally be performed, isn't it possible that the Cardiff edition
was intended, by redistributing the Psalms, to be a reasonable concert
performing edition? I can't read their minds, but it seems at least
possible, and I'm surprised that they would not have included any
explanatory notes.

The second thing that occurs to me is that similar questions arose in
regard to Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers, for which I researched and wrote
program notes about 30 years ago. The motets he included are not all
texts to a proper Roman Catholic vespers, which left some scholars
scratching their heads. But what he seems to have done is to provide--
it's a long time ago, but I seem to recall "Antiphon Substitutes" in the
form of motets--in concerted music rather than in chant, in at least some
of the movements. We have to remember that any service, Mass or Holy
Office, could be said rather than sung, and what Monteverdi seems to have
provided is music that could be performed while the texts were being read
by the priest who was officiating.

Thus I can see a possible reason for Handel to provide an Overture, just
as Monteverdi provided the introductory fanfare from "L'Orfeo" as an
introduction to "Dixit Dominus," as a sort of prelude to the service.
And of course Church Sonatas (especially Corelli's, with whom Handel
worked in Italy) were well known to Handel, so providing an instrumental
piece would not have been any kind of a breach of protocol. In fact 1707
falls during Handel's studies in Italy from 1706-1710.

But of course the fundamental question has to be whether this Handel
collection really was intended for a Roman Catholic Vespers service. I do
find the absence of a Magnificat setting rather strange.


The Overture and Sonata are of the same period, but are clearly from
other works. The Overture is from the Cantata - Donna che in ciel HWV233
and the Sonata is from "Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno" HWV46a,
which I believe is Handel's first oratorio. Both having no relation to
Vespers. The inclusion is stated that it is purely editorial.

Thank you for your responses

Rod Mather

on December 3, 2007 10:00pm
A very interesting edition!
With regards to the inclusion of an Overture and Organ Sonata, this was certianly common practice during the performance of his operatic and smaller oratorio-ish works. However, I am not convinced this is appropriate for a liturgical performance of the office of Vespers.

Peter Litman
Deal and Walmer Handelian Society
Institute of Education
University of London