Anyone performing handel’s Concertos Op. 3 has to tackle a basic problem – the musical text. the edition published by John Walsh in 1734 is by no means perfect, and is regarded with musicological head-scratching. there are no complete autograph manuscripts to help show us the way with these works. today Walsh is generally held in low esteem, criticised for shoddy editions, and equally shoddy business practices. I believe there is more value and trust in these texts, and in the man, than is usually given credit.
Perhaps with a fresh look at the hugely important set of relationships in handel’s London life – those with the various publishers of his scores – we can unearth something more musically positive. By far the most crucial and interesting collaboration for us is that which handel formed with the firm of John Walsh, and which spanned handel’s entire time in England. the story of the Walshes and the early English publications of handel is essential to gain some understanding of the worrisome text of Op. 3.
Handel and the Walsh Publishing Dynasty
The 3 documents that preface these notes show the bare- faced, public facts behind a perhaps much more juicy, private story of the relationship between handel and two generations of the music publishers both named John Walsh. It is a curious fact that although handel and the Walshes collaborated for nearly 5 decades, not one letter between them appears to have survived. the untold story then, particularly for the interesting years just before handel’s Royal Privilege ran out in 1734, can only be fantasized about.