The Man and the Music

“Handel has become the composer who most epitomises 'European-ness', and from our 21st-century perspective he represents an exemplary historical precedent for what it means to be multi-national.” …a fascinating biography from The Gramophone. Beethoven’s advice: "Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means." These and other trivia here. “Handel is one of the giants of musical history – a great man in physical stature, spirit and vision. His is happy, confident, melodic music imbued with the grace of the Italian vocal school, an easy fluency in German contrapuntal writing and the English choral tradition inherited from Purcell.” (The Gramophone again). Handel composed nearly 30 oratorios and close to 50 operas. (Total list here.) And he produced them in three different countries and musical worlds. The success of his first opera, Almira (1705) took him to Italy, where he produced Rodrigo and Agrippina, (1707 and 1709) and heard of the London scene.  In 1710 he left for London, was commissioned to write an opera and in two weeks produced Rinaldo. In 1719, he was invited to become the

Handel’s World

1685 Bach & Scarlatti born 1695 Purcell dies 1707 United Kingdom formed 1714 George I king, first German monarch of England 1746 English defeat Scots at Culloden. 1755 Johnson’s Dictionary 1756 Mozart born
arrangements.” Our oratorio (performed as opera) is Saul  (1739). “The "Dead March" in Saul has been played at state funerals in the United Kingdom including that of Winston Churchill. It was performed at the funeral of George Washington, as well as being played many times during the journey of the body of Abraham Lincoln after his assassination to Springfield, Illinois.” “The mad scene [in Hercules] for Dejanira ‘Where shall I fly?’ contains many changes of tempo and mood, following the character's panic and despair. The chorus comment on the action after the manner of the choruses in Greek tragedy, with varied and inventive music…the excellence of the libretto, the masterly characterisation through music, and Handel's superlative musical invention make Hercules ‘the crowning glory of Baroque music drama’".
Master of the Orchestra at the Royal Academy of Music, the first Italian opera company in London. In 1726 he became a British citizen and the following year formed the New Royal Academy of Music. When Italian operas fell out of fashion, he started composing oratorios, including his most famous, Messiah. He then turned to historic sources, with Hercules and Serse appearing later.

Our Meetings

We will watch and listen to three works by Handel. Our two operas are Serse (Xerxes, 1738) and Giulio Cesare (1734). “Serse is Handel's most popular opera with modern audiences after Giulio Cesare.  The very features which 18th-century listeners found so disconcerting - the shortness of the arias and the admixture of comedy - may account for its appeal to the 20th and the 21st centuries.” “[Giulio Cesare] is considered by many to be one of Handel's finest Italian operas, possibly even the best in the history of opera seria. It is admired for its superb vocal writing, its dramatic impact, and its deft orchestral
March 17th Saul March 17th Saul March 24th Serse March 24th Serse March 31st Giulio Cesare March 31st Giulio Cesare