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From Library to Stage

‘Musick’ in Manchester 1744/45

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From Library to Stage - ‘Musick’ in Manchester 1744/45
Manchester Baroque

In 2019 Manchester Baroque began reconstructing the first ever public concert series known to have been given in Manchester. The reconstruction of the programmes and their historical programming concept is based on research by Manchester Baroque’s leader and Artistic Director, Dr. Pauline Nobes, who has written the following summary for Continuo Connect (see also her article on the first concert in this series). The concert featuring this programme is listed here.

Thirty years ago, in the Henry Watson Music Library in Manchester’s Public Library, a seed of inspiration was sown. A journal containing a transcript of historical records was found to reveal 16 concert programmes (John Harland, centenary review 1844). The entries for the ‘Musick’ follow sixteen dates, which are grouped in subscription ‘quarters’ falling between Nov 2nd 1744 and 20th August 1745 (two ‘quarters’ comprising six concerts each are complete, and there are four programmes in the third quarter). These lists provide an outline for reconstruction and were part of a careful and accurate transcript of events, logged, quite unusually it seems, at the time of the concerts: the first entry is dated Nov. 1st 1744, the day before the first concert. The sixteen programmes all show a mixture of titles, descriptions, and composers’ names, partly obvious and easy to identify, sometimes scanty and cryptic. The second of February’s concerts is the eighth in the series (8/16: February 19th 1745).

(The original concerts were on Friday nights. We perform mostly on Saturday nights, so the exact dates don’t always coincide).

Extract from a journal of Manchester concert programmes, 1744-45
Extract from a journal of Manchester concert programmes, 1744-45


The first step in reconstructing the programmes was to convert the list of pieces into a modern-day ‘vertical’ format. This reveals any ambiguities and the pieces with incomplete identification are clearly highlighted (the final combination of new and historical programme information is shown at the end). Although a certain lack of clarity in the grammar and punctuation peculiarities of Harland’s records sometimes provides challenges, the process was straightforward for this concert; a semi-colon is used consistently to separate the pieces. One consideration was, however, to shorten the slightly long programme by interpreting ‘violin solo’ to be part of the description of ‘third concerto of Tessarini’ (this could be justified by Harland’s inconsistent usage of the colon on other occasions, for example in the first concert (1/16: Nov. 2nd 1744), the ‘third sonata; first set of Corelli’ most likely refers to one piece, Corelli’s Op. 1/3).


There are 30 named Overtures distributed throughout the 16 programmes. From a total of the 24 titles, each concert contains at least one, mostly two and on the last occasion three Overtures. Although Handel is not directly accredited to any of the Overtures, all, except one, are easily recognised as the titles of his Operas and Oratorios

Acis & Galatea, Admeto, Alcina, Alessandro, Amorous Goddess, Ariodante, Atalanta, Catone, Deidamia, Esther, Flavio, Giulio Cesare, Lotario, Muzio Scevola, Ottone, Messiah, Partenope, Ricardo primo, Radamisto,Rodelinda, Samson, Saul, Scipione, Tamerlane.

(•listed in two programmes).

In addition, we have the following transcript description:

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

as well as the related disbursement at the end of the first quarter:

‘48 Overtures by Handel, £2. 7s’

These Overtures are most likely to be keyboard arrangements for the following reasons. It is clear that ‘short score’ harpsichord and organ versions of orchestral pieces were very fashionable around the time of the ‘Musick in Manchester series. Handel’s Opera Overtures were published in many different collations from the late 1720s onwards. The London Daily Postannounces another Handel collection arranged for keyboard (London Daily Post, Feb 26, 1743), Handel’s Celebrated Water Music Compleat. Set for the Harpsichord. To which is added Two favourite Minuets, with variations for the Harpsichord, by Geminiani and on its front cover Walsh, the eighteenth-century London publishing firm, advertises a list of other works by the composer, starting with Forty two Overtures from all the Operas for the Harpsichord.

The ‘48 Overtures’, purchased by the Manchester’s music society the following year almost certainly refers to all eight volumes published by Walsh under the title Six Overtures fitted to the Harpsichord or Spinnet… (totalling 48). On the front cover of the ‘Eighth Collection’ of Walsh’s series of ‘Six Overtures there is a new advertisement for Handel’s 48 Overtures, &c…. Musick just Publish’d. It is also known that the Daily Advertiser advertised them in December 1743, a year before the Manchester concert series began,

Advert in the Daily Advertiser, 1743
Advert in the Daily Advertiser, 1743

The lists of players and financial disbursements also assist in pinpointing some of the repertory (see also December’s background story) and in this case, perhaps the most convincing argument for the solo harpsichord performance are the many appearances of a well-known eighteenth-century keyboard player ‘Wainwright’ identified as the main harpsichordist in the 1744/45 Manchester series (and a one-off listing for ‘Betts’, Wainwright’s predecessor at Manchester Cathedral).

Two other composers are deduced from the titles of their works. ‘Overture to The Amorous Goddess’ (14/16: July 9th, 1745), the one overture known not to be by Handel, was relatively easy to attribute. Having found Harland’s centenary review, I searched out the music of Samuel Howard (1710 – 1782) in the archives of the Henry Watson library and by chance found a harpsichord arrangement of the Opera ‘Overture to The Amorous Goddess’.


More challenging, especially before the expansion of online research tools, was the identification of “Thyrsis” (9/16: April 16th, 1745) and ‘cantata “On the coast of Argos”’ (8/16: our next concert). My thanks toMichael Talbot for identifying both these works: “Thyrsis”, the title of the second of Three Cantatas by George Hayden (1685 – ?1722) and, rather than the title of a Cantata, “On the coast of Argos” turned out to be a somewhat cryptic clue, quoting the opening line of the first recitative from the first of Hayden’s Three Cantatas ‘Neptune and Amymone’. The name of this Cantata isn’t disclosed in the transcript of original records.

‘Neptune and Amymone’ is a little-known cantata but there are, perhaps surprisingly, two different copies in the Henry Watson Library from the time the Manchester concerts (and a third reference to a later print). In addition to the eighteenth-century print of Walsh’s edition, a handwritten copy of this Cantata, without voice, is found in a manuscript dated c.1738-40 by Donald Burrows. The leather-bound volume, like other manuscript and printed sources coincidentally held as part of the Sir Newman Flower collection at The Henry Watson Music Library in Manchester, contains many other works named or in some way relevant to the ‘Musick’ in Manchester programmes.


Four concertos are named in the eighth ‘Musickin Manchester programme (8/16: February 19th 1745) and all show only the composer and the number of the concerto:

third concerto of Geminiani;
third concerto of Tessarini;
fourth concerto of Corelli;
fourth concerto of Hasse.

Since Corelli published only one set of concertos, ‘[12] Concerti grossi...Op. 6’, identification of ‘fourth concerto of Corelli’ is without doubt Corelli’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6/4. (Purchase is accounted for at the end of the first quarter, ‘Corelli’s Concertos, 15s’).

For the other concertos in this programme (and wherever choices exist), an exclusion process as well as selection preferences are necessary.The number of the Concertos (and Sonatas in other programmes) may offer help in the identification, or at least in the narrowing down of choice. For example, the occurrence of ‘twelfth of…’ quickly excludes collections of only six pieces.

In general, and for the scope of these reconstructions, the selection of compositions is limited to printed editions dated before November 1744 or before the date of the ‘Musick’ in Manchester concert in question. Editions from within the British Isles, especially the better-known ones from London, are given preference. Manuscript versions are used only when the date of composition is known. In general, assumption is made that manuscript copies are identified in the transcript, as with the references ‘MS. Concerto, Humphreys’ (13/16: June 25th1745) and ‘MS. concerto of Felton’ (15/16: July 23rd 1745). Works advertised in newspapers such as the Daily Advertiser, General Advertiser, London Gazette and those in subscription advertisements, are considered only when a publication date is available. Original manuscripts, historic editions and scholarly modern or facsimile editions held in Manchester libraries are favoured.

There are several collections of Concerti Grossi by Geminiani published before the ‘Musick’in Manchester concerts, so that the reference to ‘Geminiani’s Concertos’ belonging to ye Concert’ noted at the beginning of the record book, is open to interpretation. However, since the concert programmes list the first’ throughto the sixth concerto of Geminiani’ in six successive concerts between December 1744 and April 1745, they are thought to be referring to one collection, that of six Concerti Grossi. For the reconstruction Op. 2 and 3 are thought to be the most likely candidates (Op. 6 London, 1741/42 is lost and Op. 5, Geminiani’s re-working of Corelli’s XII Sonata’s or Solo’s for a Violin a Bass Violin or Harpsichord ... his fifth Opera...., is thought to have been a later acquisition of ‘ye Concert’. A costing for ‘Geminiani’s Concertos’ is noted at the end of the second quarter and ‘opera fifth’ is specified later on (13/16: June 25th,1745). Thus, the choice is narrowed down, and the fourth concerto of Op. 3 (Walsh, 1732) is chosen for this reconstruction (Op. 3 parts are also held in The Henry Watson Music Library).

The numbering of Tessarini’s early works is surrounded by confusion: two different collections of music for both Op. 1 and Op. 2 exist. In Tessarini’s ‘official’ Op. 2, Il maestro e discepolo, published in Urbino (1734) a few years later than the London Op. 2, 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.

Op. 1 published by Walsh (London [1726/7]) is Tessarini’s Concerti a CinqueCarlo Tessarini di Rimini... Virtuoso di Violino... , an exact copy of Le Cène’s edition (1724/25) and published without the composer’s consent. John Young sold this London edition with his address label covering the original publication details. This collection is believed to be the music and the source for the Tessarini ‘concerto’ references in the ‘Musick’ in Manchester programmes.

The composer ‘Hasse’ is named twice, both times for the last piece of the programme and the second time with the description ‘Hasse’s grand concerto’ (14/16 July 9th 1745). There are three possible collections of concertos to choose between: Six Concertos in 8 parts…Op. 4 (1741), Twelve Concertos in 6 parts…Op. 3 (1741) and Six Concertos for Harpsichord or Organ (1743). The Twelve Concertos in 6 parts…Op. 3 (1741) are solo flute concertos and were excluded on these occasions partly due to the reference ‘Hasse’s grand concerto’, albeit in a later programme, but also since all 19 references to the ‘German flute’ occur without a composer’s name, stating either ‘solo’ or ‘concerto’, and don’t appear as a final piece. The preferred source for the reconstruction is the collection of Concerti Grossi , Six Concertos in 8 parts…Op. 4. Excluding the option Six Concertos for Harpsichord or Organ (1743), keyboard arrangements of works from both Op. 3 and Op. 4. was based on the fact that the last pieces are Concerti Grossi on eight occasions, 10 if counting the two Hasse concertos, five Corelli Concerti Grossi the music for which belonged to the music society and three form John Humphries (although it would not be uncommon for an historical programme to end with a smaller scale piece (as is probably the case, for example in the second concert of this series which ends with one of the Handel Overtures, argued here to be most likely the keyboard version, as well as two occurrences of ‘Handel’s water music’ also possibly Handel’s arrangement for solo keyboard). Choosing the larger-scale version (and keeping instrumentation flexible where necessary), albeit not an historical ‘must’, also follows a preferred historical performance premise for the ‘Musickin Manchester reconstructions, partly inspired by the title page of Walsh’s edition of Corelli’s Concerti:

Opera sesta.
XII Great Concertos or Sonatas,
for two Violins and a Violoncello:
or for two Violins more, a Tenor and a Thorough Bass;

which may be doubled at Pleasure

(The principle of instruments doubling in tuttis, is also followed in the Cantata, other Concerti Grossi and in the ‘songs’).

Hasse’s Concertos in 8 parts…Op. 4 are reworkings of some of Hasse’s many Opera Overtures. The fourth concerto is based on the Overture to Artaserse (Venice 1730 / Dresden 1740) and includes additional ‘Tromba or Hautboy’ parts. Contrary to misbelief (possibly originating from an IMSLP upload, which accidentally itemises only 7 partbooks) Walsh does include a viola part, writing for 2 violins, viola, 2 horns, 2 oboes or trumpets, cello and basso continuo. For our chamber performance, the horn parts are shared between the string players and the ‘Tromba or Hautboy’ parts are played by two oboists. No record has been found until now that theoriginal flautist, ‘Mr. Richardson’ also played the oboe, meaning that the flute is free to double the violin part on this occasion (instead of the oboes, who do this in the Opera version).

The choice of programming for the minimalistic, incomplete descriptions ‘German flute solo’, ‘lesson’, ‘song’ and ‘violin solo’ rely on informed deduction and personal choice whilst adhering to the general criteria outlined above.

The descriptions such as ‘lessons for’ or ‘upon’ the harpsichord are not taken to be literal quotations from titles of publication or manuscript sources. In the Manchester programmes the use of ‘lesson’ 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 camera and da chiesa such as, for example, the harpsichord Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti published in London in 1739. Also confusing is that the title can be used for individual movements, or even arrangements of ‘songs’. The choice for ‘harpsichord lesson’ on this occasion is a selection of movements from Richard Jones’s Setts of Lessons for the Harpsichord (1732).

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. In the sixteen programmes only one concert seems to be without flute. The references all use the description ‘German flute’ (now known as the transverse or ‘Baroque’ flute). Although the repertory is always left relatively open (‘German flute concerto’ [9], ‘German flute solo’ [5], ‘Solo on German flute’ [1] and ‘Solo, German flute’ [4]) the differentiation between ‘solo’ and ‘concerto’ is acknowledged in the reconstructions. ‘Solos’ are interpreted as Sonatas rather than concertos. The choice of music is inspired by a microfilm containing eighteenth-century London editions ordered many years ago by Dr. David Ledbetter for the Royal Northern College of Music library. Sonatas by Sigr. Giovanni Boni, Mr. Christian Schickhardt and Sigr. Quants (sic) all have the title ‘Solos for a German flute, Hoboy or violin…’ (the inclusion of oboe and violin in the title being almost certainly a marketing ploy of the publisher, Walsh).

In many early English editions, Arias, such as those composed and performed by Handel, are simply referred to as ‘songs’ but this is not light-weight in its meaning. There are a vast number of publications, for example those of Handel, with titles such as The Most Celebrated Songs in…. or The Favourite Songs in the Opera call’d.... When the description ‘song’ follows an Overture in the ‘Musickin Manchester programmes, the reconstruction policy is to take one of the Arias from that work. The performer referred to as the ‘wife’ of ‘Mr. Steemson’ seems to be the only singer and the voice range in the named repertory is for soprano (there are two concerts without songs and rather than references to ‘Steemson and his wife’ receiving ‘£2. 2s‘, one guinea each, Mr Steemson is listed alone earning ‘£1. 1s’). Filling in these and other gaps where ‘songs’ are indicated, the reconstructions therefore chooses soprano Arias and in this February’s programme one ‘song’ is from Tamerlano, coming directly after the ‘Overture to Tamerlane, and the other a popular Aria from Alcina, included in the second collection of Walsh’s eighteenth-century edition The favourite songs in the Opera call'd Alcina [1735].

The possible programming solutions for ‘violin solo’ are also numerous. An Italian Sonata (by Mascitti) is chosen partly to balance the different nationalities of composers represented in the reconstructed programme (the other minimalistic descriptions are filled in by a German work, coincidentally for the ‘German flute solo’ and an English selection of pieces for the ‘harpsichord lesson’). Balancing nationalities is frequently a consideration in concert programming today, but it also seems to occur in these eighteenth-century programmes. The music of Corelli and Handel appears in every programme joined by a selection of other Italian, German and English works. The violin Sonatas by Michele Mascitti also follow the criteria of being published in London before 1744 and many of his Op. 2 Sonatas and a couple from his Op. 3 were copied into the same manuscript collection as the Hayden Cantata, in the Manchester archives mentioned above.

Utilising the treasures of the Manchester archives has opened many doors to re-discovering and programming new repertory including music in the extraordinary collection of Cardinal Ottoboni, bought in Rome by Edward Holdsworth for Handel’s friend and librettist for Messiah, Charles Jennens. This collection came to Manchester’s Henry Watson Music Library in 1965, acquired from the estate of the publisher and Handel biographer Sir Newman Flower. Flower subsequently extended the collection to include works, so many of which are relevant to the ‘Musickin Manchester, including those by Handel and Hasse and scores of native English composers such as Samuel Howard, John Humphries, many items and collections of which are unique, unpublished and rarely, if ever, performed.

Outlining the reconstruction process for one of the ‘Musickin Manchester programmes shows the large and varied selection of music required, and their historical concept of programming encourages the re-introduction of certain neglected and little-known music into today’s concert repertory in combination with the music of Corelli and Handel, as popular today as it clearly was then. The exchange between solos, trios, duets and larger-scale works, vocal as well as instrumental music, is relatively unknown to concertgoers today and it provides an exciting, special and historical way to present ‘early music’.

With a lot of behind-the-scenes detective work we hope to transform the carefully transcribed lists of ‘Musick’ and into not only historically credible but also attractive and entertaining concert programmes.


February 19th 1745

Overture to Scipio;
cantata, “On the coast of Argos;”
German flute solo;
harpsichord lesson;
fourth of Geminiani.

2nd Act.

Overture to Tamerlane;
third concerto of Tessarini;
violin solo;
fourth of Corelli;
fourth of Hasse.

February 17th 2024

Overture to Scipio (set for the Harpsichord), HWV 20 - George Frideric Handel
Cantata III Neptune and Amymone from 3 Cantatas - George Hayden
Sonata Op. 2, No.3 - Johann Joachim Quantz
Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 4 - Francesco Geminiani


Overture to Tamerlane (set for the Harpsichord), HWV 18 - George Frideric Handel
Tornami a Vagheggiar from Alcina, HWV 34 - George Frideric Handel
Concerto, G major, Op. 1, No. 3 - Carlo Tessarini
Armida Abandonata, HWV 105 - George Frideric Handel
Concerto Grosso, D major, Op. 6, No. 4 - Arcangelo Corelli
Concerto Grosso, D major, Op. 4, No. 4 - Johann Adolph Hasse

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