William Babell, Jean-François Dandrieu and HWV 441

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Abstract

William Babell (d.1723) has attracted attention primarily for his instrumental music with recorder parts and for his keyboard arrangements of opera arias. However, an overlooked manuscript in the Biblioteca Musicale Gaetano Donizetti, Bergamo, sheds much new light on him, and although anonymous throughout, appears to be a copyist’s collection of his keyboard music. It includes a set of eleven toccatas, most of which are unique, and, within a suite in C minor, one of Babell’s borrowings (adapted to varying degrees) of complete pieces from Jean-François Dandrieu’s Livre de Sonates à Violon Seul, Op. 2 (1710). The Bergamo manuscript contains every movement except for the first from HWV 441, which appeared in Walsh’s Suites de Pieces ... par G. F. Handel. Second Volume (c.1733); it pairs them with the C minor pieces. Terence Best has already suggested Babell’s authorship, at least in part, because two of the pieces are found in a Babell autograph, or in other sources where they are attributed to him. The Bergamo source seems to strengthen the case for Babellian origin. Further evidence is suggested by his Dandrieu borrowings; although no Dandrieu prototype apparently survives, the Gavotta (HWV 441/6) could have had one to judge from its style. Most of the Dandrieu pieces Babell adopted were later published in Dandrieu’s Troisième livre de pièces de clavecin (1734); they were thus deemed suitable as keyboard pieces by the French composer. While Babell undoubtedly made some changes he likely obtained them from a lost keyboard manuscript and may not have known Livre de Sonates.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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