Though Saxon by birth, Handel is often claimed by the English as one of their own. But during his early 20s, before England was even a glint in his eye, he spent a spell of three-and-a-half years, from summer 1706 to early 1710, travelling the patchwork of states we now know as Italy. He certainly chose an 'interesting' time to go; the War of the Spanish Succession was in full swing, and its reverberations were felt the length and breadth of the Italian peninsula. For most of the period he was based in Rome, but he also visited Florence, Naples and Venice, fulfilling major commissions in each city. All this week, Donald Macleod charts the composer's Italian progress, with the help of novelist, biographer and avid Handelian, Jonathan Keates.
The closest thing Handel had to a day job at this point in his life was the production of secular cantatas for his chief Italian benefactor, the Marchese Francesco Maria Ruspoli. Handel wrote dozens of these mini operatic scenas, yet they are among the least known of his works. Today's programme focuses on some of the gems of this rich and varied repertory.