"Lascia ch'io pianga" is an Italian-language soprano aria by composer George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) which has become a popular concert piece. The original melody for the aria is first found in Act III of Handel's 1705 opera Almira as a Sarabande.
Three years later, Handel re-cycled the melody and used it for an aria for the character Piacere in the second part of his 1707 oratorio Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno (also entitled El tronfo del Tempo e della Verità. This version of the aria is entitled, "Lascia la spina".
In 1711, Handel recycled the music yet again, this time for his 1711 London opera "Rinaldo," using a new text and giving the aria to the character Almirena in act 2. "Rinaldo" was a major triumph for Handel, and it is with this work that the aria is chiefly associated. The libretto was written by Giacomo Rossi, and the text and translation are given in the first comment.
This exquisite transcription is by the great William Thomas Best (1826-1897), the City Organist of Liverpool, who designed and presided at the great Willis at St. George's Hall in Liverpool. Mr. Best really was THE best, and Franz Liszt proclaimed him as the greatest virtuoso on ANY instrument.
This transcription is all the more powerful because of its "simplicity." The "dominant" color is the diapasons, but notice the heart-breaking interplay between the Swell Vox Humana and the Solo Harmonic Flute.
Salisbury isn't as large as St. George's Hall, but the same nobility of sound is present. I hope that this would have pleased Mr. Best.
The score is attached.
Two performances you may wish to listen to: