Tune Your Harps!

And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. ~ Esth.3

“Tune your harps” is a beautiful Air from Händel’s “Esther.” (It is also part of the six-scened version, called “Haman and Mordecai”.)

It is really low in tessitura, which gives it a very relaxed and dreamy feeling. As I think that an alto version by Handel exists — as Bowman seems an unlikely candidate for exploring into the tenor repertoire — I don’t see any problem in transposing it.

Concerning the connotations that go along with the choice of the key in Baroque, I’d think that transposing it from F to A is not worse than to shift it from F to G, what Bowman does.

In short: I would love if PJ would sing it, but transposed to A most probably.

The whole aria is so unpretentious, soft and simple, and it would be yet better, I find, with a brilliant voice matching the colour of the obligato more than Bowman’s or Padmore’s.

The dialogue between the oboe and the singer is wonderful — it’s not a battle, but it spins out like a thread, they are supporting each other.

The way the harmonic shift is brought about, in the Bowman recording at about 1:06, really pulls some string with me. I cannot place it why I love this peace so much, but it moves me.

There are other things about that piece that are simply perfection. Just as “Oh had I Jubal’s lyre” has this notion of someone practising solfeggi, and deliberately, this start of “Tune your harps,” the very first note, repeated by the oboe, really has something of tuning to it.

For comparison, Mark Padmore (I would like to hear Bostridge sing it, too!). What I find interesting is that he only sings it one whole tone lower — What a difference a day, er, a tone makes!

SCENE II. — Israelites

RECITATIVE — First Israelite.
Now persecution shall lay by her iron rod
Esther is Queen, and Esther serves the living God.

AIR
Tune your harps to cheerful strains,
Moulder idols into dust!
Great Jehovah lives and reigns,
We in great Jehovah trust.

I’ve found sheet music in abundance — rejoice!

http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0001/bsb00016874/images/index.html?id=00016874&nativeno=20

http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0001/bsb00016875/images/index.html?id=00016875&nativeno=42

To get to the next page, just type the next page number in the tiny frame on the top of the page.

Here is the full score, for your leisure:
http://imslp.org/wiki/Esther,_HWV_50b_(Handel,_George_Frideric)
Here’s the direct link, in case the other won’t load forever:
http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/6/69/IMSLP153836-SIBLEY1802.17352.38be-39087013556669score.pdf]

The tenor version of the aria is on page #16.

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