Christian Kjos

Releasing the ‘Loudie’ - harpsichord accompaniment in G. F. Handel’s continuo cantatas

Norges Musikkhøgskole

Norwegian Academy of Music

Disputas: 25. september 2020


Veiledere: Prof. Eivind Buene (NMH) og cembalist Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Danmark



Professor Jürg-Andresa Boetticher, Schola Cantorum Basiliesis, Sveits

Sopran Emma Krikby, England

Førsteamanuensis Jostein Gundersen, Griegakademiet, Universitetet i Bergen


My artistic research project at the Norwegian Academy of Music aims to highlight the role of the harpsichord player and the interpretation of basso continuo in G. F. Handel’s continuo cantatas – i.e. cantatas for one voice with continuo accompaniment only. How the continuo realization is shaped in performance of this repertoire is crucial to the overall expression since there are no other composed parts, unlike in the instrumental cantatas. A wide range of possible solutions emerge in the intersection between improvisation, composition, imagination, and speculation within a source-oriented approach. Aiming to give these cantatas a musical guise that is rarely heard among performer’s today, I focus on an advanced and soloistic harpsichord continuo that includes different use of imitation, counterpoint, harmonic additions, ‘duet-making’ with the vocal part and other rarely heard features. I’m inspired by certain German 18th-century continuo treatises such as Heinichen’s Der Generalbass in der Composition (Dresden, 1728), Mattheson’s Grosse Generalbaß-Schule (Hamburg, 1731) and Daube’s General-Bass in drey Accorden (Leipzig, 1756) in addition to several Italian(ate) and English sources, as well as idioms from Handel’s own keyboard music.

There are frequently significant discrepancies between how historical sources describe continuo playing and how many of today’s harpsichordists interpret and perform their part within the context of the HIP-movement. In the last decades, two contrasting approaches stand out: those who accompany discretely with few parts and a transparent accompaniment: unofficially nicknamed ‘Softies’; and those who generally play fuller: ‘Loudies’ – from which my project receives its title.

With this project, I aim to deepen the understanding of the discipline of continuo playing and to develop realizations that go beyond mere chordal playing (as often heard today) in a much-neglected repertoire by one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era. Hopefully, this will challenge existing views and conventions among several branches of today’s early music community, where strong performers and personas foster strong opinions.


NMH | Christian Kjos: Releasing the Loudie

Releasing the ‘Loudie’ - harpsichord accompaniment in G. F. Handel’s continuo cantatas