Emily Baines

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Abstract. By comparing a version of ‘Alla Fama’ from 'Ottone’ intended for mechanical performance to one which we know Handel specifically intended for a singer; we can more accurately gauge how ‘vocal’ the ornaments we find in mechanical arrangements of opera arias may be. Although there are a very large number of vocal pieces pinned into mechanical organs, this fact alone does not prove unequivocally that the ornamentation style is applicable to a vocal performance. The voice can, of course, be an extremely agile instrument but as with all instruments it undeniably has idiomatic pros and cons which make certain ornaments perhaps more suitable to a vocal performance and others to an instrumental one. So when we have an instrumental arrangement of a vocal piece which contains ornaments, should we interpret this as being a rendition in which the instruments imitate a vocal performance? Or is the vocal line being ‘instrumentalized’and therefore treated differently? The answer may be a combination of the two but this case study seeks to demonstrate a clear link between an arrangement made for mechanical performance and one made by Handel himself to be performed by a singer thereby affirming the status of mechanical sources as being vital sources of Handelian performance style.

Key words: G. F. Handel, mechanical organs, ornaments, vocal performances

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