Handel: L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato

Our 2023 season culminated with a sensational North American tour. The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists performed Handel’s pastoral ode L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, as well as J.S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor, before returning to their London home, St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Handel - L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato

Handel’s secular work L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato is one of his most inventive, varied and characteristically English works evoking contrasting emotions of the human condition, which creates a synergy of Enlightenment reason. This significant work was last recorded by the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in 1981.

L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1740) is one of Handel’s most unusual works. Despite its Italian title, it uses a completely English text, much of it written a century earlier by the 22-year-old poet John Milton, to explore the contrasting moods of Mirth (L’Allegro) and Melancholy (il Penseroso), eventually advocating a ‘middle way’ of Moderation. Milton’s poetry was suggested to Handel by his friend the philosopher James Harris, who set about rearranging the poems to create a convincing musical structure; Handel himself had the idea of a final section to unite Milton’s poems into ‘one Moral Design’. The libretto was refined by Charles Jennens (better known as the compiler of the text for Messiah).

This poetic allegory yielded some of Handel’s most inventive and colourful music. The text focuses on English rural and urban life that would have been familiar to Handel: milkmaids and shepherds, warbling birds, the cricket on the hearth, the ‘busy hum’ of ‘populous cities’, the thrill of the hunt, tongue-in-cheek references to theatrical performances of Ben Jonson and Shakespeare – all come to life thanks to the composer’s imaginative use of the orchestra and singers. The final ‘Moderato’ section culminates in one of Handel’s most sublime duets, evoking nothing less than the dawn of the age of Enlightenment.

This riotous variety of moods and images was celebrated by the Monteverdi Choir, with a team of brilliant young solo singers, and the English Baroque Soloists. The piece has notable solos for horn, flute, oboe, bassoon, organ, bells and cello.

Tour dates:

Saturday 21 October 2023, 7:30pm
Harris Theater, Chicago

Thursday 26 October 2023, 8pm
Carnegie Hall, New York City

Tuesday 31 October 2023, 7:30pm
St Martin-in-the-Fields, London


“Not only were the choral and instrumental contributions outstanding, but the performance benefited as well from a mostly excellent cast of soloists, detaching themselves from the chorus ranks” – Bachtrack (review of Carnegie Hall concert)

“The soprano Hilary Cronin sang with a rich body and luminous purity …soprano Samantha Clarke was a font of grace, luxuriating in the music’s beauty with restful patience” – New York Times (review of Carnegie Hall concert)

“Some truly marvelous performances … Soprano Hilary Cronin was a wonder with her lighter-than-air soprano” – New York Classical Review (review of Carnegie Hall concert)

“Handel at his most magical … well-nigh perfect in performance” – The Arts Desk (review of St Martin-in-the-Fields concert)

Programme: Linda Lundin, Park Studio