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Title: George Frideric Handel - For the Radio Members of the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York
Author: Peyser, Herbert F.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         George Frideric Handel

                           HERBERT F. PEYSER

                          [Illustration: Logo]

                      Written for and dedicated to
                             RADIO MEMBERS
                              of NEW YORK

                             Copyright 1951
                              of NEW YORK
                          113 West 57th Street
                           New York 19, N. Y.

                  [Illustration: HANDEL IN MIDDLE AGE.
                     From the Portrait by Kneller.]


Handel’s long career resembles a gigantic tapestry, so bewilderingly
crowded with detail, so filled with turmoil and vicissitude, with vast
achievements, extremes of good and ill fortune, and unending comings and
goings that any attempt to force even a small part of it into the frame
of a tiny, unpretentious booklet of the present sort is as hopeless as
it is presumptuous. Handel is far more difficult to reduce to such
minuscule dimensions than his greatest contemporary, Bach, whose worldly
experiences were infinitely less diverse and colorful, for all the
sublimity, mystical quality and epochal influence of his myriad
creations. The supreme master of florid pomp, Handel bulked much larger
in the perspective of his own day than did, in his, the composer of the
“Passion According to St. Matthew.” In spite of an everlasting monument
like “Messiah,” the most popular choral masterpiece ever written, we
may, however, ask ourselves if the body of Handel’s music is as widely
known and as intimately studied as it deserves to be. How many today can
boast of a real acquaintance with Handel’s operas (there are more than
forty of them alone) apart from a few airs sung in concert; how many can
truly claim to know by experience any of the great oratorios apart from
“Messiah” and, possibly, “Judas Maccabaeus” and “Israel in Egypt?” Yet
outside of such monumental works, Handel was time and again a composer
of exquisitely delicate colorations, and sensuous style, not to say a
largely unsuspected master of many subtle intricacies of rhythm. The
present pamphlet, wholly without originality or novelty of approach,
may, perchance, induce the casual reader to renew his interest in
Handel’s prodigious treasury, so much of it neglected, not to say
actually undiscovered by multitudes of music lovers.

                                                                H. F. P.

                         George Frideric Handel

                           HERBERT F. PEYSER

Some wit, comparing Bach and Handel, remarked that both masters were
“born in the same year and killed by the same doctor.” Born in the same
year they unquestionably were, Handel almost an exact month before his
great contemporary. Halle, where Handel first saw the light, is a
comparatively short distance from Eisenach, where Bach was cradled. It
lies not far from the eastern boundary of that Saxon-Thuringian country
which harbored some of the imposing musical figures of Germany during
the 17th Century. Such names as those of the famous “three S’s”—Schein,
Scheidt and Schütz—of Kuhnau, Krieger, Melchior Franck, Ahle,
Rosenmüller, echo powerfully through the history of that period.

George Frideric Handel was born on Monday, February 23, 1685. That the
name has been variously spelled need not trouble us; strict consistency
in such matters lay as lightly on folks of this epoch as it did in the
age of Mozart. However, it may be pointed out that in this booklet
“Frideric” is retained in place of “Frederick” because Handel himself
repeatedly used this form and because the British authorities thus
inscribed him when he became a British citizen.

The Handel family came from Silesia, where Valentine Handel, the
composer’s grandfather, had been a coppersmith in Breslau. George
Handel, the father, had been “barber-surgeon,” attached to the service
of Saxon and Swedish armies, then to that of Duke Augustus of Saxony.
For a time he prospered and in 1665 he bought himself “Am Schlamm,” at
Halle-an-der-Saale, a palatial house, which in the course of years
barely escaped total destruction by fire. In any case, Father Handel was
to know the ups and downs of fortune; and the vicissitudes he endured
did not sweeten an always morose and surly character. He has been
described as “a strong man, a man of vast principles, bigoted, intensely
disagreeable, a man with a rather withered heart.” A portrait of him
gave Romain Rolland “the impression of one who has never smiled.” He was
twice married, the first time to the widow of a barber, a woman ten
years his senior, the second to Dorothea Taust, a pastor’s daughter,
thirty years his junior. By the first he had six children, by the second
four, of whom George Frideric was the second.

Father Handel was 63 when his great son came into the world. The future
composer of “Messiah” was born, not in the elaborate edifice which
carries his bust and is inscribed with the titles of his oratorios, but
in the house adjoining it which stands on a street corner and whose
official address is Nicolai Strasse 5. Yet even this statement must be
qualified. For this presumable “birthplace” was not built till 1800 and,
according to the researches of Newman Flower, stands on the _site_ of
the house in which Handel was born. As for the town of Halle, it had
definitely passed after the death of the Duke Augustus of Saxony, to
Brandenburg; so that, strictly speaking, Handel was born a Prussian.
But, as Rolland has noted, “the childhood of Handel was influenced by
two intellectual forces: the Saxon and the Prussian. Of the two the more
aristocratic, and also most powerful was the Saxon.” At all events,
after the Thirty Years’ War the city of Halle, during the Middle Ages a
center of culture and gaiety, had fallen into a drab provincialism.

[Illustration: The house at Halle where Handel was supposed to have been
   born, decorated with laurels and the names of his oratorios. And—]

      [Illustration: —The house next door in which he _was_ born.]

Apparently the child’s musical susceptibilities developed early and
rather like Mozart’s, even if unlike the latter, he had not the benefit
of a friendly and understanding father. Who has not seen at some time or
other the picture immortalizing the precocity of “the Infant Handel?”
The story goes that the indulgent mother had smuggled a clavichord into
the garret. In the dead of night the child crept to the attic till the
father, aroused by faint tinklings, came with a lantern to investigate.
Whether or not the clavichord was confiscated the result of the parental
raid was a stern prohibition of all sorts of music-making. Some of us
may be reminded by this apparent heartlessness of a rather similar
punishment visited on the youthful Bach, when his elder brother deprived
him of music he had painfully copied out by moonlight for his own use.

The elder Handel’s motive was, according to his own lights, perhaps
quite as defensible. He had no wish to see a son of his degraded to the
rank of a lackey or some form of vagabond, than which a musician at that
time hardly seemed any better. The barber-surgeon fully shared the
prejudice of the average “strong man” against the artist. Rolland
describes the bourgeois middle class German attitude of the 17th Century
on the subject of music: “It was for them a mere art of amusement, and
not a serious profession. Many of the masters of that time, Schütz,
Kuhnau, Rosenmüller, were lawyers or theologians, before they devoted
themselves to music.” And old George Handel is supposed to have
threatened: “If that boy ever shows any further inclination towards
music or noises disguised as such, I will kill it!” There was, indeed,
one way in which the boy could with a certain impunity satisfy his
craving for music—in church, by listening to the organ and the singing
of the choir. Such enjoyment supplanted to some extent the games and
childish pleasures of ordinary boys. He was, it appears, a somewhat
lonely child, who made few friends and whose “playground” was a dismal
courtyard opposite his home.

The father settled on the law as a fine, honest and lucrative profession
for his son. Jurisprudence was to rescue Handel from the snares of
music, just as in time it was to be the “salvation” of Schumann, as
school mastering was by paternal decree to be the destiny of Schubert,
and medicine that of Berlioz. Here, too, it was quite as ineffectual!
All the same, the youth was not to escape his share of legal study; and
by the time he reached 16 he entered the University of Halle as
“studiosus juris.”

About eight years earlier, however, fate in the paradoxical shape of
Father Handel himself took a hand in George Frideric’s future. He had
his son accompany him on a journey to nearby Weissenfels, the residence
of the Duke of Saxony. That personage asked the lad to play something on
the chapel organ and was so stirred by what he heard that he counselled
the obdurate father not to thwart the child’s ambition. From an ordinary
person the hard-boiled parent would have taken such advice in very bad
part; coming from the mouth of a prince it acquired the force of a
command. So he decided to allow his son to study music with the unspoken
reservation, however, that he must belong first and foremost to the law.
Actually, these musical studies might be said to have begun in
Weissenfels, for here young Handel had a chance to hear some of the
works of the Nürnberg master, Johann Krieger; and in this same town, a
mere stone’s throw from Halle, he had his first taste of opera, which
was to thrust deep roots in his soul.

The boy was now entrusted to the care of Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, from
Leipzig, who at an early age had become organist of the Halle
Liebfrauenkirche. Zachow appears to have been an uncommonly gifted
teacher and Handel’s devotion to him never wavered. As we read Romain
Rolland’s words we are strangely reminded of the ideals and methods of
Theodor Weinlig, Wagner’s unique master of composition: “Zachow’s first
efforts were devoted to giving the pupil a strong foundation in harmony.
Then he turned his thoughts towards the inventive side of the art; he
showed him how to give his musical ideas the most perfect form, and he
refined his taste. He possessed a remarkable library of Italian and
German music, and he explained to Handel the various methods of writing
and composing adopted by different nationalities, whilst pointing out
the good qualities and the faults of each composer and in order that his
education might be at the same time theoretical and practical, he
frequently gave him exercises to work in such and such a style.... Thus
the little Handel had, thanks to his master, a living summary of the
musical resources of Germany, old and new; and under his direction he
absorbed all the secrets of the great contrapuntal architects of the
past, together with the clear expressive and melodic beauty of the
Italian-German schools of Hanover and Hamburg.”

Around 1696 George Frideric is supposed to have gone to Berlin, though
about this and possibly a subsequent trip a short time afterwards the
chronicles give no clear account. Father Handel was seriously ill and,
as it is unlikely that the 11-year-old student went to the Court of the
Elector of Brandenburg alone, the assumption is that he made the journey
in Zachow’s company. Be this as it may, the artistic enthusiasm of the
Electress, Sophia Charlotte, stimulated musical activities at the
electoral court and attracted thither outstanding Italian composers,
instrumentalists and singers. And it may well have been here that the
youth was first brought into contact with the music of the South. He
played on the clavecin before a princely audience and stirred it to such
enthusiasm that the Elector wished to take him into service or at least
finance a trip to Italy, to complete his studies. But if we are to
believe Mainwaring, Father Handel did not wish his son “tied too soon to
a prince.” Furthermore, the old man’s health failed so alarmingly that
he knew his days were numbered and wished to see the boy once more
before he died.

Hardly was George Frideric back in Halle when the barber-surgeon went to
his account. The youth wrote a memorial poem which was published in a
pamphlet and proved to be the first time his name ever appeared in
print. After settling her husband’s affairs Dorothea Handel went about
carrying out his wishes regarding her son’s legal studies. In a spirit
of duty he continued them a while; but soon after his completion of his
college classes and his entrance for the Faculty of Law at the Halle
University music gained the upper hand completely. He was religious
without sentimentality but as little as the youthful Bach did he have
any sympathy with Pietism (of which the Faculty of Theology was a
hot-bed at the time) and was violently opposed to the Pietist antagonism
to music. And when the post of organist at the Cathedral “by the
Moritzburg” fell vacant by reason of the dissolute habits of a
roystering individual named Leporin, Handel was made his successor,
though the church was Calvinist and the young newcomer a staunch

There was now an end to all thoughts of jurisprudence. Music claimed him
solely. Handel was only 17 but seems already to have exercised a strong
musical authority in Halle. He assembled a capital choir and orchestra
from among his most gifted pupils and let them be heard on Sundays in
various churches of the town. Like Bach and other masters of that
astonishing period, he composed an incredible number of cantatas,
motets, psalms, chorales and devotional miscellany, which had to be new
every week. It must not be imagined that he allowed them to wilt or
evaporate. Handel’s mind was a storehouse, whence nothing ever escaped
and in which was always stocked away and held in reserve for future use.

In the summer of 1703 he left his native city; not, indeed, forever, but
only for occasional visits to relatives and friends, when professional
business allowed him time. From Halle he turned his steps toward
Hamburg, which had suffered little from the wars of the 17th Century,
and grown rich, gay and artistic in consequence of enviable business
prosperity. Commercial benefits were, of course, reflected in a musical
expansion which raised the Hanseatic port above the level even of Berlin
and made it the operatic city of the North. In Hamburg, notes Rolland,
“they spoke all languages and especially the French tongue; it was in
continual relationship with both England and Italy, and particularly
with Venice, which constituted for it a model for emulation. It was by
way of Hamburg that the English ideas were circulated in Germany.... In
the time of Handel, Hamburg shared with Leipzig the intellectual
prestige of Germany. There was no other place in Germany where music was
held in such high esteem. The artists there hobnobbed with the rich

The Hamburg opera catered to various factions which did not invariably
see eye to eye. One of these factions consisted of persons who sought in
operatic entertainment out and out amusement; the other, of individuals
with a religious bent, who regarded the average fantastic and
extravagant opera as an invention of hell—_opera diabolica_. When Handel
arrived the lyric theatre was making history guided by the composer,
Reinhard Keiser. Under Keiser’s management Hamburg became a home of
opera in the German tradition. Some of these “German” operas were coarse
and in atrocious taste. Hugo Leichtentritt tells, for instance, of a
work called “Störtebeker und Gödge Michaelis” (music by Keiser), a story
about piracy on the high seas, with executions and massacres, in which
bladders filled with sow blood and concealed beneath the costumes of the
actors would be perforated in such a manner that the appalled spectators
were spattered with a gory shower, often resulting in a stampede.

Keiser, though a person of unstable character and extreme
presumptuousness, had indisputable genius. He was not yet 30 when Handel
came to Hamburg and under him that city experienced its golden age of
opera. To be sure, the weakest feature of the Hamburg Opera was the
singing. For a long time the institution had no _professional_ singers.
The roles were taken by students, shoemakers, tailors, fruiterers “and
girls of little talent and less virtue,” while ordinarily artisans
“found it more convenient to take female parts.” A gifted Kapellmeister
named Cousser, who had been a pupil of Lully in Paris, introduced
important reforms and when Handel in 1703 arrived the moment was, in
truth, a psychological one. “He was rich in power and strong in will,”
wrote the 22-year-old Johann Mattheson, the first acquaintance he was to
make in Hamburg. Rolland pictures Handel as having “an ample forehead, a
vigorous mouth, a full chin and a head covered with a biretta” (rather
after the manner of Wagner, of whom throughout his life Handel reminds
one in some amazing traits of character and genius).

Under Keiser the adventurous newcomer soon found employment as a second
violin in the opera orchestra. His particular intimate was Mattheson, a
musician of many gifts and uncommon versatility, who united in himself
literary talents, a critical flair and a highly volatile temperament. It
was he who helped Handel find pupils and who guided him into the town’s
important musical circles. So that before long Handel had access to the
organ lofts of Hamburg’s churches and opportunities to compose works for
ecclesiastical purposes. Mattheson, incidentally, was a linguist and
spoke perfect English; and it was through him that Handel was to enter
for the first time into negotiations with what was to become his second

It was not very long, however, before the temperaments and
idiosyncrasies of the two brought them into collision. Mattheson
criticised the music of his friend, perhaps not entirely without reason,
complained that Handel was not the most perfect of melodists and that he
often wrote at too great length. If these opinions may have nettled the
younger man they were not wholly lost on him, as time was to show. In
the early months of their friendship Handel and Mattheson went to Lübeck
to listen to the playing of the renowned Danish organist, Dietrich
Buxtehude, whose celebrated Abendmusiken at the Marienkirche were
likewise a magnet which drew Bach away from his duties in Arnstadt. The
young men were deeply stirred by the music of the venerable master and
Handel stored away in his incredibly retentive memory ideas which were
to fertilize his imagination in later years. The two youths actually
competed for the post of organist and might, like Bach, have won it but
for the provision that whoever succeeded a retiring organist in Lübeck
had to marry the daughter—or widow—of his predecessor. In this case the
daughter seems to have been more than usually undesirable and, like
their famous contemporary, the excursionists from Hamburg turned their
backs on Lübeck.

Presently the friendship was imperiled once more, this time with what
might have been disastrous results. In October, 1704, an opera,
“Cleopatra” which Mattheson had composed to a text by a certain
Friederick Feustkling, was produced with the composer in the part of
Mark Antony and Handel at the harpsichord. The piece won a success, but
on a later occasion Mattheson (Antony being “dead”) hastened into the
orchestra and tried to push Handel from the instrument. A quarrel flared
up immediately, which seems to have broken up the performance and have
lasted half an hour. In the end the throng repaired to the Gänsemarkt,
outside the theatre, the pair drew swords and set upon one another.
Almost at once the combat came to an end, Mattheson’s blade splintering
against a metal button on Handel’s coat. “The duel might have ended very
badly for us both, if by God’s mercy my sword had not broken,” the young
firebrand was to write later. The reconciliation was not immediate but
when it did come about the two dined together, then betook themselves to
the theatre to a rehearsal of Handel’s first opera, “Almira.” The
representation, on January 8, 1705, was an instant triumph for its
composer. The Hamburgers were completely captivated by the freshness and
manifest genius which the score exhibited. Mattheson had sung the tenor
part but does not seem to have been overjoyed by his friend’s
spectacular success.

Handel was spurred by his fortunate operatic debut to embark on a second
work. The fact that “Almira” had been sung partly in Italian, partly in
German, did not keep it from obtaining twenty performances at the
outset. Handel made the mistake of interrupting its run because he
believed that in his next opera, “Nero, or Love Obtained Through Blood
and Murder,” he had written something better. Mattheson sang the part of
Nero; but the opera died after only three hearings. To aggravate matters
the Keiser regime, now largely discredited, gave promise of putting an
end to the Hamburg Opera; and Handel began to see himself enmeshed in
the catastrophe of the wreck, a victim of elaborate jealousies and

                                 * * *

In 1704 he had made the acquaintance of an Italian prince, Giovanni
Gaston del Medici, an adventurer and a notorious profligate, whose
father was Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was astonished that Handel seemed
so little interested in Italian music, including some specimens he set
before him. Handel insisted that “angels would be necessary to sing them
if such stuff were to sound even agreeable.” At this time his ambition
was to create a German style, independent of foreign influences. And for
Keiser’s successor, Saurbrey, Handel turned out a new opera, “Florindo
und Daphne”, which, like Wagner’s “Rienzi”, proved to be so long that
the composer caused it to be given in two parts, “for fear”, he
admitted, “that the music might tire the hearers.” Then, without taking
leave of Mattheson or any of his friends, he accepted the prince’s
invitation and went to Italy.

More or less mystery surrounds Handel’s arrival in Italy, though the
time was not exactly propitious, what with the War of the Spanish
Succession in full blast and funds in the wanderer’s pocket fairly low.
But the composer did not tarry in Florence, his first stop, for long and
early in 1707 went to Rome. From the operatic standpoint the Eternal
City had nothing to interest him. Pope Innocent III ten years previously
deciding that the opera house was immoral, had closed it; then when
things promised to improve a bit for musicians a devastating earthquake
renewed the religious qualms of the people, so that during the whole of
Handel’s Italian sojourn, Rome had not a single performance of opera.
However, there was abundant church and chamber music, which spurred him
to emulation. To the Easter festivities of April, 1707, he contributed a
“Dixit Dominus” and a few months later he wrote a “Laudate Pueri” and
other Latin Psalms. But more important for his future were the excellent
connections he made. Letters of recommendation from the Medici prince
opened the Roman salons to him; and in such aristocratic circles his
virtuosity on the keyboard seems to have gained him more fame than even
his compositions. “The famous Saxon” (“Il Sassone famoso”), as Handel
was called among the Romans even as early as the summer of 1707, was the
wonder of musical soirees. And he was making inestimable artistic
friendships. When we note that among those with whom he was brought into
contact at one time or another in Rome included the Scarlattis, father
and son; Arcangelo Corelli, Bernardo Pasquini, Benedetto Marcello—to
mention only a few—we can judge to what grandly fertilizing inspirations
Handel was exposed. We must mention in passing Cardinals Panfili and
Ottoboni, as well as the Marquis Ruspoli, who yielded to nobody in his
enthusiasm for Handel’s gifts. All these men belonged to a coterie
called the “Arcadians”, which united “the nobility and the artists in a
spiritual fraternity not only the most illustrious artists and
aristocrats of Italy, but further included four Popes and members of
foreign royalty.”


The “Arcadians” held weekly meetings at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni,
where poetic and musical improvisations were given. It was for the
concerts in the Ottoboni home that Handel composed his two Roman
oratorios, “The Resurrection” and “The Triumph of Time and Truth”, which
approximate operas and the second of which was to undergo several
transformations during his career. In the Ottoboni palace later took
place that celebrated contest between Handel and the incomparable
Domenico Scarlatti, which was adjudged a draw. The heart-warming
friendship between the two masters was to endure for years. It is by no
means out of the question that in the un-operatic atmosphere of Rome
Handel, nevertheless, began to compose the first of his Italian operas,
“Roderigo”, which was heard for the first time only when he returned to
Florence in the autumn of 1707.

                                 * * *

Handel was not to leave Italy till some time during the late spring of
1710, yet there are not a few blanks in his Italian travels, which it is
impossible to fill out. He worked as industriously as ever—composed,
played, absorbed myriad impressions. In Florence “Roderigo” had a
success which it was claimed by some had been achieved partly through
the favor of the Grand Duke and the love of a prima donna, Vittoria
Tarquini. Possibly it was furthered by the latter but certainly not
caused by it. Handel’s life is conspicuously free from conventional
“love interest”; and perhaps the most celebrated story of his dealings
with women is the one which tells of his raging threat to throw the
soprano, Francesca Cuzzoni, out of a window if she did not sing exactly
as he wanted what he had written for her. Certainly the middle-aged
Tarquini never attracted him physically.

Encouraged by his Florentine luck Handel was moved to try his fortunes
in Venice, where opera houses had sprung up everywhere and at one time
numbered fifteen. Seven were playing on one and the same evening during
Carnival time and there were musical diversions or solemnities of one
sort or another in churches and in those women’s conservatories called
“hospitals”. Venice was then the musical capital of Italy, somewhat as
Milan was to become at a later date. Handel does not appear to have
contributed to the operatic life of the city at this time but his chance
was to come before long. Yet he did make one encounter in Venice which
was to have consequences—he met Ernest Augustus, Prince of Hanover, and
the Duke of Manchester, English Ambassador Extraordinary. He went back
to Rome (where an unsuccessful attempt was made to convert him to
Catholicism); yet he loved the city and regretfully tore himself away
from it to make a jaunt to Naples, which contributed importantly to his
artistic sensibilities. As he had done elsewhere in Italy he haunted the
picture galleries and nourished his enthusiasm for paintings. He
assimilated the Spanish and French musical styles which “fought for
honors in this city”; saw much of Alessandro Scarlatti, interested
himself in the folk music of the place, noted down the melodies of the
Calabrian Pifferari, met the Venetian Cardinal Grimani, composed for the
Neapolitan “Arcadians” the _serenata_ “Acis and Galatea”. Grimani, whose
family owned the theatre of San Giovanni Crisostomo in Venice, supplied
him with the libretto of an opera, “Agrippina”, which Handel probably
began to compose on the spot. Its performance in Venice was as good as
assured and from Naples he returned to Rome, making another useful
friend in the Bishop Agostino Steffani, who was charged with secret
missions by different German princes and held at the same time the post
of Kapellmeister at the Court of Hanover.

“Agrippina” was produced in Venice, 1709-10. Its reception exceeded
anything the composer had known till then. The chronicles tell of cries
of “Viva il caro Sassone”, also of “extravagances impossible to record.”
Obviously his travels in the peninsula had superbly enriched his
creative powers and the Venetians found the new work “the most melodious
of Handel’s Italian operas.” Nor was its popularity confined to Venice.
He seems to have had some idea of going to Paris, became familiar with
the French language, used it in his correspondence and Romain Rolland
describes his style as “always very correct and having the fine courtesy
of the Court of Louis XIV.”

But Handel did not go to France. Instead, he returned to Germany and
went to Hanover. Prince Ernest had, in Venice, been completely
captivated by “Agrippina” and repeated an invitation he had made once
before. The worthy Steffani invited the “dear Saxon” to succeed him as
Kapellmeister at the Hanoverian Court. Wisely, “the dear Saxon”
accepted. How differently things might have turned had he not been in
Venice at just that providential moment! So Handel, as Chrysander said,
“walked in the steps of Steffani; but his feet were larger.”

[Illustration: Showing Handel’s handwriting and signature when he first
                            came to London.]

His stay in Hanover in 1710 was brief. Hardly had he prepared to take up
his duties than proposals were made to him from England. He asked leave
of absence and received it; accepted an invitation from the Elector
Johann Wilhelm to visit his court at Düsseldorf; and then, by way of
Holland, traveled to London, which he reached late in 1710, unable to
speak a word of English. Before he had gone back to the Hanoverian Court
he had written an opera, produced it amid prodigious enthusiasm and
taken the first steps toward becoming a sovereign British institution.

                                 * * *

He could not have timed his coming better. Purcell’s death sixteen years
earlier had given what was something like a death blow to English music;
and what now passed for native compositions amounted to pitiable odds
and ends. Rolland ridicules the claim of some unthinking people that
Handel “killed English music since there was nothing left to kill.” A
renewal of the Puritanical opposition which poisoned the English stage
contributed to the confusion and discouragement of British artists, and
the worst of such attacks as the notorious Jeremy Collier had made on
the “profaneness and immorality” of the theatre lay in the fact that, as
such things often do, they expressed the deep feelings of the nation. In
consequence of a universal hypocrisy foreign elements came to fill the
vacuum created. Some bad Italian librettos were set to wretched music
and served up with momentary success. Other “entertainments” of the sort
mingled Italian and English words and were duly satirized by the jealous
and priggish Joseph Addison, nettled by the failure of his own piece,
“Rosamund”, to which one Thomas Clayton had composed atrocious music.

Handel came into contact with one Aaron Hill, who managed the Queen’s
Theatre in the Haymarket, and received from him an opera text,
“Rinaldo”, which an Italian, Giacomo Rossi, had adapted from Tasso’s
“Jerusalem Delivered.” The new arrival rose magnificently to his
opportunity. The music was completed in just two weeks and performed on
February 24, 1711. And luck aided Handel by supplying him with some
extraordinary singers, all of them new to England—Giuseppe Boschi, a
young and astounding bass, and the sensational castrato, Nicolini, who
took London by storm. The tale of “Rinaldo” was that of the Venetian
“Agrippina” all over again! In one evening the British capital was
subjugated, for all the bile and venom Addison and Steele could
discharge into the columns of _The Spectator_ and _The Tatler_. The
melodies of the opera spread like wildfire and seem to have appealed to
the lower classes as well as to the aristocracy. To this day some of
them have preserved their vitality. The noble air, “Lascia ch’io
pianga”, in sarabande rhythm, is a fairly familiar item on recital
programs; and the Crusaders’ March, a fine, swinging tune, was adapted
to the words “Let us take the road” by Dr. Pepusch when he assembled out
of countless folksongs and dances John Gay’s deathless “Beggar’s
Opera”—in 1728 a thorn in Handel’s side but still, after more than two
centuries, a classic with an iron constitution.

                                 * * *

Roughly speaking, Handel composed forty-four operas from “Almira”, in
1705, at Hamburg to “Deidamia”, 1741, in London. It is obviously
impossible to consider even a small fraction of them here and we shall
have to content ourselves with little more than the names and dates of
only a few. All the same, it may be well to pause here momentarily to
ask ourselves what, in the first place, a Handel opera really is like.
For unless we are specialists, not to say antiquarians, we have little
means of definitely knowing. The lyric drama of that period cannot be
judged by the works of the 19th and 20th Centuries or even by more than
a scant handful of masterpieces of Gluck and Mozart. Its problems, its
musical and dramatic aspects are basically different. A movement, which
had its rise in Germany after the First World War and which continued on
and off for several years (even spreading intermittently to other
countries, including the United States) demonstrated that these baroque
entertainments are essentially museum pieces, prizable as certain of
their elements may be. To us, who have been nurtured on the theatre
works of Mozart, of the composers of the school of dramatic and
pictorial “grand opera”, of the opera buffa and the opéra comique, the
_drame lyrique_ of Gounod and Bizet, the works of Verdi, the music
dramas of Wagner and his assorted successors of various nationalities—to
us the operatic specimens of Handel seem infinitely alien and remote in
their premises and calculated stylizations. The nearest we can approach
them today is through such surviving examples of the old _opera seria_
as Mozart’s “Idomeneo” or Gluck’s “Alceste”. And even those do not
supply genuine parallels.

To the average person reared on the lyric drama as known to two or three
generations preceding ours the long-established description of a
Handelian opera as a “concert in costume” may suffice at a pinch. But in
a larger sense it begs the question, for Handel’s forty odd operas are
both more than this and less. We should find their librettos so cut to a
pattern that the most old-fashioned “books” of the 19th Century would
possibly strike us, by comparison, dramatically bold, even involved.
Handelian operas have no trace of psychological subtlety or elementary
“conflict”. What theatrical “action” there is passes before us with
something like lightning speed. Incidents which need to be communicated
to the spectator are, in the main, recounted in recitative. What we
understand as “incident” is subordinate to phases of emotional
expression; and in ensemble pieces. Joy, rage, sadness, a broad scale of
elemental feelings, are recognizably embodied in musical moods and
tempos unmistakable in their lyrical or dramatic communications of
“affetti” (“emotions”). There is little, if indeed any, of what a later
esthetic was to call “the art of transition” and it was nothing in any
manner unusual for a fiery or combative _presto_ to precede (or follow)
a tender _largo_ or _andante_, and other formalistic clichés. The
accompaniment, the orchestra, indeed the “action” and the stage picture
is not much more than incidental background and frame.

The true center of gravity of a Handel opera lies in the performance of
the singers and their command of declamation, florid utterance,
sustained song and artifices at that epoch accepted as supremely
expressive. Only in grasping these facts can we put ourselves in the
frame of mind needed to understand the essential principles of these
baroque masterpieces and to appreciate what—apart from their sheer
melodic beauties—lifts them to a higher level than curios lacking any
further validity, difficult as it may be for many of us to force our
imagination and our feelings into such a mold.

                                 * * *

Having conquered England at a blow and become the idol not only of high
society but of the common people as well, Handel recalled in the spring
of 1711 that he was still Kapellmeister of Hanover. In London he had
made enemies as well as friends and one of the most implacable of his
foes was the great but churlish Addison. His admirers, on the other
hand, included a child named Mary Granville, later Mrs. Delany, one of
his staunchest friends; the Duke of Burlington, through whom he had
entrée to Burlington House; and the famous eccentric, Thomas Britton, a
coal dealer by day but who, on certain evenings, sponsored memorable
concerts in a specially outfitted loft above his coal shop, which drew
prominent London musicians and cultured aristocrats to the Clerkenwell
“garret”, where Handel frequently appeared as harpsichord and even organ

Back in Hanover June, 1711, he renewed his contacts with Bishop
Steffani, composed organ concertos and other chamber music, as well as a
quantity of songs to German texts by the Hamburg Senator, Brockes. He
would have liked to produce “Rinaldo” but the Hanover Opera was closed.
Yet London had entered his blood and nothing would content him but his
speedy return, the more so because his English admirers demanded him. He
obtained leave “on condition that he return to Hanover after a
reasonable time”; and by November, 1712, he arrived in England to
supervise preparations for a pastoral, “Il Pastor Fido”, a work hastily
thrown together and variously improved more than twenty years later.
This time Handel did not repeat his “Rinaldo” sensation and the piece
had only half a dozen hearings. To make matters worse, a certain
MacSwiney, who succeeded Aaron Hill at the Queen’s Theatre, absconded,
leaving nothing but unpaid bills and enraged singers. At this stage
there enters the picture a Swiss adventurer, by name Heidegger, a man of
unbelievable conceit and homeliness, who was, however, to play an
important role in Handel’s future. To recoup the failure of “Il Pastor
Fido” the composer turned out in less than three weeks a “tragic opera”
in five acts, “Teseo”, with a libretto by Nicolo Francesco Haym, and
dedicated tactfully to the Earl of Burlington. “Teseo” came near
duplicating the fortunes of “Rinaldo”; and if, as Rolland says, it was
“full of haste”, it was also “full of genius.” If anything could have
intrenched the composer still more firmly in London it was this opera.
He went for a while to live at Burlington House at the Duke’s
invitation; met Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot, struck up friendships with this
and that musician at the Queen’s Arms Tavern in St. Paul’s Churchyard
and was never so happy as when he sat with some musical crony, a mug of
beer at hand and a harpsichord nearby. The first work he composed in the
ideal peace of Burlington House was a Birthday Ode for Queen Anne, whom
he had met on his first London visit. The Ode was produced at St.
James’s on February 6, 1713, and was the first English he had set to
music. All his life Handel’s English remained bad, sometimes even
grotesque, and the incorrect accenting in his compositions repeatedly
betray his deficiencies in our tongue. Of such faults the Birthday Ode
has its full share, in spite of which the Queen was so delighted with
the work that she settled on the composer an annual pension of 200
Pounds. He found it politic to write music for patriotic purposes, and
instantly complied with the sovereign’s command to supply a “Te Deum”
and a “Jubilate” to celebrate the Peace of Utrecht, both compositions
given at a solemn service at St. Paul’s before the assembled Members of

                                 * * *

Queen Anne died on August 1, 1714, and for a time the skies over Handel
threatened to cloud; for on the very day of her passing the Elector of
Hanover was proclaimed by the Secret Council King of England. He arrived
in London on September 20 and was crowned George I at Westminster a
month later. Here was a pretty kettle of fish! His former master to
whose service he had most certainly not returned “in a reasonable time”
suddenly seated on the English throne—and not even a new “Te Deum”
prepared against his coming to the land which Handel now regarded as

Handelian luck got him out of what might have been a serious
predicament. He must have trusted to his destiny in the first place to
help him out of an obviously awkward situation and, being tactful, he
made no open move to aggravate it. George I was and remained intensely
German, brought to England with him “a compact body of
Germans”—chamberlains, secretaries, even his pair of elderly mistresses,
the Baroness Kielmansegge and Madame Schulenburg; and all manner of
comforts and consolations he could not find in his new island kingdom.
He made no effort to shed his German love of music, wherefore as Rolland
points out, “he could not punish Handel without punishing himself.” And
after he heard Handel’s fascinating new opera, “Amadigi”, in May, 1715,
he lost all idea (if, indeed, he ever harbored any) of disciplining his
former servant. He appointed Handel music master to the little
princesses and when, in 1716, the monarch had to go to Hanover the
composer accompanied him on the trip, took occasion to study musical
developments in Germany and even wrote a Passion on a text by Heinrich

Here is the point to consider for a moment the tale of the “Water
Music”, one of the most venerable Handelian anecdotes. The story runs
somewhat as follows: Lord Burlington and Baron Kielmansegge, the Master
of the King’s Horse, in order to reconcile sovereign and musician, in
1715 persuaded the latter to write a set of light pieces to be played on
a boat close to the royal barge at a water party on the Thames. The King
liked the music sufficiently to inquire who composed it and, being told,
summoned Handel, promised to let bygones be bygones and received him
back into favor. Unfortunately for romance, later documents have shown
that the “Water Music” was not played till 1717 and then under wholly
different conditions. But the legend has become so ingrained in British
musical tradition that, as Newman Flower wrote, “it is precisely what
ought to have happened.” At all events, the “Water Music” is an adorable
suite, definitely English in character—like much else in Handel’s
music—and to this day an ornament of concert programs in one or another

King George, far from remembering past annoyances, saw to it that
Handel’s yearly pension from Queen Anne should be increased to 600
Pounds, so that even without further earnings his financial state was
tolerably secure. His good fortunes were enhanced by the musical
enthusiasms of the King, who could not hear enough of “Rinaldo” and
“Amadigi” (to the spectacular features of which live birds, which
sometimes misbehaved, and a fountain of real water, heightened the
attractions of sumptuous settings). He went to them, often incognito,
several times a week sharing his private box with his bevy of lady
friends, new and old; or he would vary his visits to the opera with
attendance at plays or concerts, so that his chances to admire the works
of Handel, in one form or another, were rarely lacking. Many found that
the monarch’s habit of parading his amours before London audiences added
to the piquancy of a Handelian score!

By the side of the famed artificial soprano, Nicolini, sang the
brilliant Anastasia Robinson, who had been a soprano but whose voice,
after a siege of illness, suddenly dropped to contralto. Mrs. Robinson
was particularly noted for the fact that her morals were at all times
spotless. Mrs. Delany was to describe her as “of middling stature, not
handsome but of a pleasing modest countenance, with large blue eyes....
Her manner and address were very engaging, and her behavior on all
occasions that of a gentlewoman.” When her husband, Lord Peterborough,
died she burned the diaries he had kept, wherein he had noted his
various infidelities and other secrets not meant for the scrutiny of his

Handel’s star was steadily rising and his fame was not to be transcended
till a number of years later and then only by virtue of his own genius
and after many fluctuations of fortune. But when the King returned to
London from his trip to Germany opera fell upon bad days. Musical and
theatrical life flourished, indeed, yet suddenly farces and other
diversions, imported from France, captured the mood of the town and
delighted the monarch and his ladies. Now nobody felt like putting up
money on opera, since inexpensive vulgarity was a safer bet. At just
about this period Handel and James Brydges, Duke of Chandos, former
Paymaster-General of the Army during the Marlborough wars, were brought
into contact. The erstwhile Earl of Carnarvon had accumulated his wealth
by heaven knows what sharp practices, and inherited an estate at
Cannons, near Edgware, where he had erected a luxurious palace,
including a chapel, a theatre, and other musical appurtenances
inseparable from such an establishment. The Prince of Wales was a
frequent visitor at Cannons, braving even the swarming footpads of
Edgware Road. The Duke of Chandos seems to have been in a position to
buy anything which struck his fancy and there is a story that on one
occasion, he or his son (the accounts differ) coming across a man
unmercifully thrashing his well-favored wife, rescued the lady by buying
her on the spot. He, therefore, had no particular trouble securing
Handel as master of his music in place of his former employee, the
German Dr. Pepusch. Some ten years later Dr. Pepusch had his revenge by
compiling the score of the “Beggar’s Opera” which was to become such a
grievous obstacle in Handel’s path.

But until 1720 Handel was in the service of the Duke of Chandos, even if
he spent much of his time in London, busily attending to the musical
instruction of the daughters of Caroline, Princess of Wales, and writing
numerous “Lessons” and clavier suites for his royal pupils. Which brings
us to another celebrated Handelian fiction, “The Harmonious Blacksmith.”
The legend is quite as diversified and even more far-fetched than the
one about the “Water Music.” For well over a century the world has been
fed the story of the blacksmith and his forge near Whitchurch, close to
Edgware. In the house of this blacksmith Handel is supposed to have
taken refuge from a thunderstorm, the blacksmith meantime continuing his
hammering. When the storm was over the composer went forth and, still
haunted by the rhythm of the pounding, set down the melody and then
proceeded to write variations on it. This “Air and Variations” form part
of Handel’s Fifth Suite of clavecin pieces, but it was not till 1820
that some imaginative publisher, taking his cue from an apprentice who
continually whistled Handel’s tune, invented the fanciful title; and not
till 1835 that the London _Times_ published an anonymous letter
retailing the legend of the blacksmith and his forge. We have no place
here to recount the complex ramifications of the amiable myth which
culminated in the auctioning off of an old anvil—supposedly the very one
which the composer heard struck! But the publisher had the last word and
to the end of time the Fifth Suite will assuredly remain “The Harmonious

Far more important in the development of Handel’s style are the “Chandos
Anthems” (or Psalms), composed during the years from 1717 to 1720 while
the master, at Cannons, was steadily evolving. They fill three volumes
of the Complete Handel edition and “stand in relationship to Handel’s
oratorios in the same position as his Italian cantatas stand to his
operas. In these religious cantatas, written for the Duke’s chapel,
Handel gives the first place to the chorus.... There is already in them
the spirit and the style of ‘Israel in Egypt’, the great monumental
lines, the popular feeling. It was only a step from this to the colossal
Biblical dramas.” (Rolland) And Handel took this first step with
“Esther”, called in its first form “Haman and Mordecai, a masque.” It
was staged on August 29, 1720. Almost simultaneously he wrote the
exquisite pastoral tragedy, “Acis and Galatea”, a Sicilian legend he had
already treated during his Neapolitan days but which, in its later shape
took on an unsurpassable element of classical finish.

                                 * * *

Yet there were breakers ahead! Whether or not he could discern them from
afar it is probably unlikely that the prospect of conflict would have
troubled over much a nature as powerful and combative as Handel’s.
Indeed, difficulties were what this prodigious vitality and ever
renewing creative inspiration best throve upon. As so often happens in
lands where opera is fundamentally an exotic people again wanted opera.
It was a logical time to end the Cannons interlude. The psychology of
the moment, to which Handel was sensitive, came just when
company-promoting took on almost the aspect of a hobby. There was money
aplenty and the South Sea Bubble, which was indeed swelling, had not yet
burst. So Lord Burlington and other peers raised capital for a new
season of Italian opera, appointed Handel director-in-chief, made the
ugly but efficient Heidegger stage manager, rounded up librettists and
sent Handel to the Continent to engage singers for what was to be known
as “The Royal Academy of Music”—an English duplication of the official
name of the Paris Opéra. And the _Weekly Journal_ soon announced that
“Mr. Handel, a famous Master of Musick, is gone beyond the sea, by order
of His Majesty, to collect a company of the choicest singers for the
Opera in the Haymarket.”

“Mr. Handel” visited Hanover, Düsseldorf, Dresden and Halle, where he
went to his birthplace “Am Schlamm”, saw his old mother, who was going
blind, and her aging spinster sister. And at this point occurred one of
the most poignant incidents of musical history—that meeting of Handel
and Bach, thwarted by an inscrutable destiny. Bach learned that his
contemporary was in Halle, went there on foot from Coethen to seek him
out and—missed him by a day! Even Bach’s subsequent dispatch of his son,
Wilhelm Friedemann, to invite Handel to visit him misfired and the two
were destined forever to remain personal strangers.

Handel secured some extraordinary singers in Dresden, where the Italian
opera was blooming. In addition to Boschi, the bass, who had sung in
“Rinaldo”, he bagged the great Signora Durastanti and the castrato
Senesino, who until the subsequent coming of the mighty Farinelli, was
perhaps the artificial soprano whom London most worshipped at a time
when castrati were completely the rage. Senesino played incredible havoc
with the hearts of deluded women. Handel, in addition to the countless
duties of a music-director had also operas to compose, and in due season
he was somehow turning out three a year. Nicola Francesco Haym supplied
him with a libretto adapted from Tacitus, “Radamisto”, and this work,
produced on April 27, 1720, was a triumph such as even Handel had never
experienced. It ran till the season ended late in June; “crowds flocked
to ‘Radamisto’ like a modern mob to a notorious prize-fight.” (Newman

The first season of the Royal Academy finished in a flourish, aided by
the circumstance that the metropolis was in the throes of an orgy of
financial speculation. We can read of incredible schemes and “bubbles”
with the help of which money was to be lured from private pocket-books.
Newman Flower tells of “one for trading in hair, another for the
universal supply of funerals in Great Britain, one for a wheel of
perpetual motion, one ‘for carrying on an undertaking of great
advantage, but nobody to know what it is’.” Still another project
contemplated “breeding silkworms in Chelsea Park.” By the time things
were ready for the opening of the Academy’s second season Lord
Burlington imported from Rome the composer Giovanni Battista Bononcini,
possibly not dreaming that he was introducing a dangerous rival to
Handel. In his little way Bononcini had talent and charm, as well as a
conceit out of all proportion to his pleasant gifts. An opera of his was
produced at the Academy with Senesino in the cast and enjoyed a good
run, while a composite work, called “Muzio Scevola”, with one act by
Handel, another by Bononcini and a third by a mediocrity, Filippo
Mattei, followed. The results of the increasingly complicated situation
were to precipitate a contest that split London’s high society into
factions. The cynical John Byrom compressed it into an epigram, part of
which has entered the English language:

  “_Some say, compared to Bononcini,_
  _That Mynherr Handel’s but a ninny;_
  _Others aver that he to Handel_
  _Is scarcely fit to hold a candle._
  _Strange, all this difference should be_
  _’Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee._”

Be all of which as it may, Handel presently had the mortification of
seeing his own new “Floridante” fail while Bononcini’s pretty “Griselda”
packed the theatre like nothing since “Radamisto!”

But Handel resembled the mythical Antaeus, who whenever he fell renewed
his own powers by contact with Mother Earth. Before long he was turning
out masterpieces in bewildering continuity. In 1723 he composed the
superb “Ottone”, in 1724 “Tamerlano” and “Giulio Cesare” and the
following season the sumptuous “Rodelinda”; in 1726 “Scipione”, and
“Alessandro”, in 1727 “Admeto” and “Riccardo I”, in 1728 “Siroe” and
“Tolomeo.” This period, incidentally, brings us to those excesses of
singer worship and rivalry which stirred the public to white heat and
turned the opera house into something between a wild prize fight and a
three ring circus. Then, in 1722-23, the species _prima donna_ suddenly
invaded the scene, in the person of Francesca Cuzzoni, who was squat and
ungainly, but had an astounding voice and an art of song that made high
society overlook her bad temper and her worse style in dress. Handel had
occasion to experience her tantrums at the rehearsals of “Ottone”, when
she refused to sing an aria as the composer wanted it; whereupon he had
recourse to real “Taming of the Shrew” tactics, seized her bodily and
threatened to throw her out of the window, at the same time shouting to
her in French: “Oh, Madame, I know full well that you are a real
she-devil; but I intend to teach you that I am Beelzebub, the Chief of
Devils!” Whereupon the humbled Cuzzoni sang her “Falsa imagine” exactly
as Handel wanted. Possibly the incident did not end Handel’s
difficulties with her but in her relations with him she became more
tractable and if she could not subdue the insensitive master she did
subdue her audiences. “Damme, she has a nest of nightingales in her
belly!”, yelled one of the gallery gods on a certain occasion and the
plebeian indelicacy seems to have won the approval of the boxes. Soon
Anastasia Robinson, revolted by the turmoil over Cuzzoni, retired from
stage life and married the Earl of Peterborough.

Cuzzoni, however, was only one obstacle of her kind. Soon afterwards the
management, on the lookout for another sensation, secured the soprano’s
most hated Continental rival, Faustina Bordoni, who was to become the
wife of the composer Hasse. Handel brought the pair on the stage
together in his opera “Alessandro”. Lady Pembroke was “protectress” of
Cuzzoni, Lady Burlington of Faustina. Finally, in May, 1727, things
culminated when the two jealous creatures came to blows during a
performance of Bononcini’s “Astyanax”, tore each others hair and
pummeled one another in full view of the spectators, who took sides and
shrieked with delight as the coiffures of the combatants were ruined and
faces scratched. The “fighting cats”, as the pair were called, later
were made the subject of Colley Cibber’s farce, “The Rival Queens”.

In time Cuzzoni despite her lack of taste in dressing was to set
fashions; and a brown and silver attire in which she appeared in
“Rodelinda” so captivated the ladies that, with modish variations, it
was to be the rage for years. The various castrati (notably the great
Senesino) were in many ways as capricious and difficult to manage as the
prima donnas. Senesino, having irritated the Earl of Peterborough by
reason of some reflection on Anastasia Robinson was flogged by her
husband. The scandal enchanted the drawing rooms and Society was even
more delighted when the singer, appearing in “Giulio Cesare” was
frightened out of his wits and burst into tears because a piece of
scenery fell at his feet at the very moment when, as Julius Caesar, he
had to sing words to the effect that “Caesar knows no fear!”

In time came the greatest castrato of them all, the incredible
Farinelli, who earned so much in London that when he retired to Italy he
built himself a palace there which he sarcastically named “English
Folly”. People used to shout at the Opera that there was only “One God
and one Farinelli!” And describing a London birthday party where this
divinity was among the guests the Duchess of Portland wrote: “There were
about forty gentlemen that had an entertainment, and Farinelli wore a
magnificent suit of clothes, and charmed the company with his voice as
Orpheus did (and so kept them from drinking).” On the other hand when
this god was once so imprudent as to walk uninvited into a party at the
Duke of Modena’s in St. James’s Street the infuriated host showed him
the door with the words: “Get out, fellow! None but gentlemen come

All these scandals, spectacular squabbles and silly exhibitions did not,
in the long run, enhance the credit of the Academy. Handel, who had been
naturalized on February 13, 1726 and at the same time been appointed
Composer to the Court and to the Chapel Royal, was together with the
rest of London, shocked in the early summer of 1727, to learn of the
death of George I on a trip to Germany. On October 11 of the same year
George II was crowned and, though less favorably disposed to the
composer than his father, continued the pensions Handel held from the
late sovereign and from Queen Anne and contributed to them another large
sum for music lessons to the young princesses. Handel, for his part,
wrote for the new King four Coronation Anthems which added to his glory.
The Academy, after losing an appalling amount of money presently
received its death blow, the production at the theatre in Lincoln’s Inn
Fields of “The Beggar’s Opera”, by the clever satirist, John Gay, with
music compiled by Dr. Pepusch, Handel’s predecessor in the employ of the
Duke of Chandos. This “ballad opera”, that “made Gay rich and Rich, the
manager, gay”, which still leads a lusty existence, and has been at
various times a landmark in English and American theatrical history,
proved an earthy and bawdy entertainment, against the barbed shafts of
whose ridicule the artifices of Italian opera could not prevail for

Yet Handel remained incorrigible. Once again he entered into partnership
with Heidegger, planned another opera season, secured Senesino again and
went abroad to engage other singers. On that occasion he traveled again
to Italy, went to Hamburg and made a last visit to his aged mother in
Halle. She was now paralyzed, and shortly afterwards she died. The new
London opera season got off to a bad start, one failure succeeding
another. Politics aggravated the situation, the more so as George II and
the Prince of Wales were at odds and the supporters of the latter,
determined to set up a rival opera company to ruin Handel.

But the story of Handel’s pertinacious efforts to float new operatic
enterprises for almost another ten years is too long, involved and too
honeycombed with intrigue, contending influences and low tactics of one
sort or another to be examined here. The composer’s Hanoverian origin
stirred many parties against him. Moreover, he was a self-willed,
imperious person, who, like Richard Wagner more than a century later,
had the gift of stimulating antagonism. He was, wrote W. McNaught, “a
pervading presence, a busybody forever intruding upon public affairs. He
had taken to ordering the amusements of the town in his own interests;
and he belonged to the wrong party.” One almost fancies oneself
confronted with a chapter from the life of the creator of “Die

Yet what a treasury of glorious music Handel was pouring out with
incalculable lavishness during these agitated years! Let us mention in
passing a few of the new operas as they came and went: “Ezio”,
“Orlando”, “Il Pastor Fido”, “Ariodante”, “Alcina”, “Arminio”,
“Berenice”, “Faramondo”, “Serse”. The last-named calls for a word by
itself. “Xerxes” has nothing to do with the Persian ruler of antiquity.
It is a comic opera, Handel’s first and only one, which stands up
extraordinarily well under modern stylized conditions of revival, apart
from which it contains possibly one of the most universally beloved
melodies that Handel ever wrote. This melody, heard at the very opening
of the piece, appears in the score as a _larghetto_ to the words “Ombra
mai fu”, a song of gratitude to a plane tree for its beneficent shade.
But for generations it has been slowed from the pace originally
prescribed to a solemn, swelling hymn known to uncounted millions as
“Handel’s Largo.” And far more know it as a churchly canticle than its
lightly moving operatic context. Almost every one of this mass of
operas, furthermore, is charged with grand arias of all the emotional
varieties common to its epoch—gems enshrined in practically every one of
the great anthologies of the 18th Century song.

It was not till 1741 that Handel concluded his period of operatic
creativity with “Deidamia”, written to a libretto by Paolo Rolli.
London’s taste for opera had, during more than a decade shown continued
fluctuation. But in 1731 a new situation brought about an event that was
to provoke a development of capital importance for Handel’s future. The
children of the Chapel Royal presented in a private performance his
masque, “Esther”, on the composer’s birthday. The success of the
performance was such that it resulted in others, one of which was given
without Handel’s consent by one of his rivals. The master was equal to
the occasion. He added some numbers to the score and gave half a dozen
representations at the King’s Theatre; but as a Biblical subject could
not be acted on the stage the masque was given in concert form, in the
presence of the royal family and of High Society. The Handelian oratorio
had more or less come into being!

                                 * * *

In the summer of 1733 Handel went to Oxford. The University authorities
had offered him a degree of Doctor of Music. Oxford is said to have
known little of his music at that time. Yet his arrival there might,
according to Newman Flower, “have been the triumphant entry of a king.
The town was overcrowded; even accommodations at the hostels ran out and
people slept in the streets.” The composer brought with him a new
oratorio, “Athalia”, composed to a text which Samuel Humphreys had
adapted from Racine. Hugo Leichtentritt claims that the Rector, Dr.
Holmes, aimed to bring about a rapprochement between the Hanoverians and
the Jacobites. A whole week of Handelian works was offered, with
hearings of “Esther”, “Deborah”, “Athalia”, the Utrecht Te Deum, “Acis
and Galatea” and other creations. In the end the master did _not_
receive the honorary degree. Some have believed that he turned it down
when he was told it would cost 100 Pounds. Like Haydn half a century
after, he found the academic honors of Oxford expensive; and later a
story gained currency that Handel had shouted in his particular brand of
English: “Vat de dyfil I trow away my money for what de Blockhead wish;
I no vant!”

Had it been practical he might have brought a whole opera production to
Oxford. In place of such a luxury he compromised on oratorios, the more
so because the dividing line between such entertainment and the opera of
the period was not so sharply drawn as it was eventually to become. The
chief differences between the two forms lay in the preponderance of
choruses, such as, in opera, were regarded as hardly more than side

Meanwhile, he seemed unable to resist the lure of the theatre. Again and
again he returned to Italian opera. He continued his earlier partnership
with Heidegger; he made trips to Italy and elsewhere and secured new
singers (the castrato, Carestini, the prima donna, Strada). His enemies
increased in number and power and resorted to the basest tactics
imaginable to discredit and injure him. The so-called Opera of the
Nobility opened at a playhouse in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, lured his
singers away from him by fair means or foul, and by securing the great
Farinelli obtained a trump card. Handel (who in time parted company with
Heidegger) would burn his fingers the moment his fortunes seemed on the
upgrade. Even the weather was against him, what with the Thames freezing
over in one of the years that he obstinately returned to opera and
cutting down his audiences. He lost money ruinously, he went into
bankruptcy, he wore himself out to such a degree that he had a mental
and physical breakdown and had to go to the Continent, to
Aix-la-Chapelle, for a cure. His amazing resilience of spirit and body
helped him back to health and actually encouraged him to make another
attempt at an operatic season with his egregious associate, Heidegger,
at the King’s Theatre early in 1738, for which he composed his comedy,

A few months earlier his royal friend, Queen Caroline, had died and
Handel gave voice to his genuine grief in the great Funeral Anthem, “The
Ways of Zion do Mourn.” And despite his misfortunes he busied himself
with a charitable enterprise, the promotion of a Society for the Support
of Decayed Musicians, which enlisted his active sympathies for the rest
of his life. Not even benefactions of the sort could mollify the legions
of his implacable enemies. His aristocratic foes, to hasten his complete
downfall, actually hired hoodlums to tear down his posters and
precipitate noisy disturbances whenever they thought trouble-making
could in some way or other harm him. Yet a few friends stood unshakably
by his side, none more faithfully than the loyal Mrs. Delany.

Just when his creditors had seized him and threatened him with
imprisonment the news of his tribulations gave rise to a popular
movement of sympathy. In 1735 he had delighted the English public by his
“Alexander’s Feast”, composed on Dryden’s “Ode to St. Cecilia”, produced
triumphantly at the Covent Garden Theatre. It had been written in twenty
days. As the years passed, Handel’s composing activity seemed incredibly
accelerated. In the freezing winter of 1739 he wrote, “to keep himself
warm” (as Rolland says) the “little” Cecilia cantata in a week, the
version of Milton’s poem (under the title “L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il
Moderato”) in just under a fortnight, and the glorious Concerti Grossi,
Opus 6, in a month distracted by his last operatic cares! Incidentally,
Handel had received about this time a testimonial of public admiration
in the form of a marble statue by the sculptor, Roubiliac, which a
manager of musical entertainments named Tyers had caused to be erected
in Vauxhall Gardens, a meeting place of London Society, where Handel’s
works made up the best liked musical features.


                [Illustration: As Handel wrote it, and—]

          [Illustration: As Christopher Smith transcribed it.]

Still, by the spring of 1741, Handel in a moment of profoundest
disheartenment prepared to throw up the sponge and leave for good and
all his home for the past thirty years. At long last he was fed up on
the struggle and announced one last concert for April 8, 1741. And then,
when the darkness before dawn seemed blackest, he sat down to create his
masterpiece, the most universally beloved choral work ever composed!

That summer Charles Jennens gave Handel a compilation of Scriptural
texts which he called “Messiah.” Jennens was a literary amateur, born at
Gopsall Hall, Leicestershire and educated at Balliol College, Oxford.
Rich and bizarre, he was vastly conceited and especially proud of the
manner in which he had assembled the various Biblical texts used in this
case. Handel had been associated with him before—in the oratorio, “Saul”
(1739), and in “L’Allegro ed Il Penseroso” a year later, as a supplement
to which he had added some poor verses of his own to the lines of Milton
and called the product “Il Moderato.” Robert Manson Myers thinks it
“extraordinary that Handel turned to this eccentric millionaire for his
libretto of ‘Messiah’.” Jennens was of another mind and even later wrote
to an acquaintance: “I shall show you a collection I gave Handel, called
‘Messiah’ which I value highly; he has made a fine entertainment of it,
though not near so good as he might and ought to have done.... There are
some passages far unworthy of Handel, but even more unworthy of
‘Messiah’”; and deploring Handel’s “maggots” he added that he had “with
greatest difficulty made him correct some of the grossest faults in the
composition.” Doubtless Handel, had he so chosen, could have picked his
texts himself; he compiled the book of “Israel in Egypt” unaided in 1738
and when, a good deal earlier, the Bishop of London wanted to help him
with the words for the “Coronation Anthems” he retorted: “I have read my
Bible very well, and I shall choose for myself!” Mr. Myers, in his
encyclopedic study of “Messiah” feels certain that Handel must have
controlled the choice of passages selected.

Like Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and other supreme musicians Handel
could create with a rapidity which ignominiously shames composers of our
supposedly “speedy” age. Even bearing that fact in mind, the composition
of “Messiah” between Saturday, August 22, 1741, and Monday, September
14, following remains one of the miracles of music. Shut up in a little
room on the first floor of his home on Lower Brook Street, Hanover
Square, none can say exactly what went on. Handel is supposed to have
uttered afterwards the words of St. Paul: “Whether I was in my body or
out of my body as I wrote it I know not.” Nobody seems to have dared
intrude upon this mystic concentration. Food was left near him but
usually found untouched when the servant came to remove it. He sat at
his desk like a stone figure and stared into space. Sometimes his man
stood in awe to see his master’s tears drop on the music paper and
mingle with the ink. “When he was composing ‘He was despised’ a visitor
is reported to have found the trembling composer sobbing with intense
emotion.” And after the “Hallelujah Chorus” he uttered those historic
words: “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God
Himself!” The autograph score, with its blots, its angry erasures and
general untidiness, offers fierce evidence of his tumultuous feelings
and flaming ecstasies. Possibly between April and late August of 1741 he
was shut up in his four walls planning the work, for we have no clear
idea just what he did during this period. Sketches and fragments do not
clear up what mystery there may be, for the composer destroyed all but
some fugitive scraps.

Handel appears to have “been reluctant to submit such music to the
capricious taste of aristocratic London.” So when William Cavendish,
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, invited him to visit Dublin and permit the
public of “that generous and polite Nation” hear his oratorios Handel
assented at once, the more so because it was a question of assisting
three benevolent institutions of Ireland (one of them the Charitable
Musical Society for the Relief of Imprisoned Debtors). With his usual
impulsiveness he even agreed to present “some special oratorio” solely
for the benefit of the unfortunates jailed for debt. And he was happy to
shake the dust of London from his feet for a while. Before starting on
his Irish journey, incidentally, he composed in a fortnight part of
another oratorio, “Samson”, based on Milton’s “Samson Agonistes” and
containing that noble air of lament, “Total Eclipse”, which was to
affect him so poignantly some years later. For his Dublin productions he
had two exceptional woman singers—Susannah Maria Cibber (also an
illustrious tragic actress) and Signora Avolio, a highly trained
Italian. The chorus was recruited from Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral
and Christchurch.

“Messiah” did not receive its first hearing till April 13, 1742. Reports
emanating from the last rehearsals greatly whetted public appetite and
on the morning of April 13 _Faulkner’s Journal_ ran the following: “This
day will be performed Mr. Handell’s new Grand Sacred Oratorio, called
the Messiah. The doors will be opened at Eleven, and the performance
begin at Twelve. The Stewards of the Charitable Musical Society request
the favor of the ladies not to come with hoops this day to the Musick
Hall in Fishamble Street. The Gentlemen are desired to come without
their swords.” Mr. Myers relates that “Handel’s ‘polite’ audience
comprised ‘Bishops, Deans, Heads of the Colledge, the most eminent
People in the Law, as well as the Flower of Ladyes of Distinction and
other People of the greatest quality.’” The audience was transported. In
some ways the heroine of the occasion was Mrs. Cibber, who sang the air
“He was despised” with such tenderness and pathos that the Reverend
Patrick Delany, who had harbored a bitter prejudice against actresses
and singers so far forgot himself that he rose and solemnly exclaimed:
“Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee!”

It was late in August, 1742, before Handel returned to London. The
hostility of the English aristocracy was still strong and continued for
some years, although the forceful voice of Alexander Pope had been
raised in his favor, little as that poet is said to have known about
music. But Pope’s acknowledged belief in Handel’s “talent” did something
toward disarming the composer’s enemies. However, he was in no hurry to
let London hear “Messiah” in spite of all the great things spoken and
written about it. Not till February, 1743, did Handel plunge once more
into the eddies of music-making in the metropolis—not, indeed, with
operatic schemes as of old but with a plan for a series of subscription
concerts at Covent Garden, offering “Samson” as the first attraction.

He took his time before bringing forward “Messiah”. Even before he could
advertise it his hypocritical foes in fashionable circles began a
campaign against the “profanation” and the “pious” raised loud cries;
clergymen in particular were scandalized “at the sacrilege of converting
the Life and Passion of Christ into a theatrical entertainment.” Even
the idea of printing the word _Messiah_ on a program led Handel to the
expedient of announcing his great work simply as “A Sacred Oratorio.” At
that, the embattled clerics tried to enjoin the performance “on the
ground that Covent Garden Theatre was a place of worldly amusement and
that in any case public entertainments during Lent were sacrilegious.”
However, the “Sacred Oratorio” was at last given its first London
hearing on March 23, 1743. The composer conducted, Signora Avolio, Mrs.
Cibber, John Beard and Thomas Lowe were the chief soloists. And here let
us cite once more Robert Manson Myers’ superb study of the masterpiece:

“As the glorious strains of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ burst upon the awed
assemblage, thick-witted George II found himself so deeply affected by
Handel’s music (or so eager to shift his position) that he started to
his feet with all the spontaneous verve a sixty-year-old gout-ridden
monarch could muster. Instantly his phlegmatic courtiers also rose, and
since no Englishman may remain seated while his King is standing, the
audience at once followed suit, thus inaugurating a custom which
persists to the present day. Actually the King’s gesture was more a
tribute to Handel’s impressive music than an instance of exceptional
religious devotion....

“It is a curious indication of public taste that this casual Eighteenth
Century ‘fashion’ has remained for two centuries an inviolable tradition
both in England and in America. Even today thousands who can scarcely
distinguish F sharp from middle C punctiliously observe a custom
established by a stupid Hanoverian king and his worldly court two
hundred years ago.”

Thanks to bigotry and organized religiosity, however, “Messiah” had only
three performances in 1743, none in 1744, two in 1745 and none whatever
till four years later. Newman Flower recounts that the master, being
complimented on the work by a titled hearer, replied: “My lord, I should
be sorry if I only entertained people; I wished to make them better.”
Yet as late as 1756 a Miss Catherine Talbot, one of Handel’s most
devoted admirers, could say that “the playhouse is an unfit place for
such a solemn performance.” However, in the words of Robert Manson
Myers, “England’s early rejection of ‘Messiah’ may be ascribed as much
to personal resentment as to shallow musical taste.... Handel flaunted
his independence and moved with resolute determination, snapping his
fingers in the face of princely patrons and daring to defy the bluest
blood in England. What was to be done with this insufferable German
upstart, this mere musician, who despite persistent opposition succeeded
in discharging his debts to the uttermost farthing? Chosen leaders of
British ‘quality’ resolved to crush Handel at once. They devised a
systematic campaign to boycott his oratorios, and no scheme proved too
petty for the gratification of their spite.”

                                 * * *

Vain resolve! For Handel, crushed, had a most persistent habit of rising
again. If political cabals brought him low, the tides of national
politics brought him to the top once more. “Messiah”, to be sure, was
not to become an unshakable British (shall we not rather say
Anglo-Saxon) monument till after the composer’s death; yet Handel was
able to make the most, creatively, of the great national emergencies of
his last decade. In 1743, as Composer of Music to the Chapel Royal, he
wrote a “Te Deum” and an anthem to celebrate the victory of Dettingen,
music that conquered the popular heart. To this period belongs the
charming secular oratorio, “Semele”, (source of the beloved airs
“Where’er you walk” and “O Sleep, why dost thou leave me?”) at the first
production of which Mrs. Delany found it significant that “there was no
disturbance in the playhouse.” But the old habit of launching operatic
or concert enterprises was upon him once more and again threatened to
consume his credit and his substance. Bankruptcy threatened. Other
oratorios, “Hercules”, “Belshazzar”, grand masterpieces both of them,
were given in 1745 to dwindling audiences. Handel’s health was
imperiled. Then came 1745, the Jacobite rising and the landing in
Scotland of the Pretender, Charles Edward. There was consternation which
culminated in the march of the Highlander army on London. Loyally, the
composer identified himself with the national cause; to celebrate the
early defeats of the Jacobites he wrote the “Occasional Oratorio”, a
call to Englishmen to resist the invader. But this occupies a less
considerable niche in history than “Judas Maccabaeus”, next to “Messiah”
perhaps the most popular of Handel’s oratorios, unless we choose to set
above it the earlier “Israel in Egypt”—to Robert Schumann “the model of
a choral work.”

“Judas Maccabaeus”, the text of which a certain divine, Thomas Morell,
had based on the Old Testament, was set by Handel between July 9 and
August 11, 1746, was produced by Handel at Covent Garden, April 1, 1747.
The composer was extraordinarily attuned to the emotional mood of the
moment. People saw in the heroic Judas an embodiment of the victorious
Duke of Cumberland, who had ferociously scattered the hosts of the
Pretender. And the Jews of London, proud of the glorification of their
warrior hero of old, rallied to Handel’s support and packed the theatre
in such numbers that the composer suddenly found himself with a wholly
new public at his feet, which to some degree replaced for a time to come
the aristocratic patrons he had lost.

                  [Illustration: HANDEL’S HOUSE, 1875.
  Handel lived here—then 57 Lower Brook Street, Hanover Square—for 34
   years, 1725 till his death in 1759; “Messiah” was composed within
                              its walls.]

In the martial, heroic score of “Judas Maccabaeus” Handel had
incorporated some music he had originally designed for other works. “See
the conquering hero comes”, probably the best known chorus in the
oratorio, had originally been a part of “Joshua”, and was not heard in
“Judas Maccabaeus” till a year after its first production. Even the
chorus “Zion now her head shall raise”, was a later addition and had not
been composed till after Handel had lost his sight.

This is the place to comment briefly on Handel’s “borrowings” about
which so much ado has been made that one writer went so far as to allude
to him as “the grand old thief.” It is altogether too easy to lay a
disproportionate stress on the practice involved, the more so as it was
a fairly legitimate custom in the Eighteenth Century. Besides Handel,
masters like Bach, Haydn, Gluck, Mozart and even Beethoven, had a way,
more or less frequently, of taking their own where they found it. Often,
indeed, they found it in their own earlier creations. In any case no
moral or ethical question was involved, for the good reason that the
_treatment_ of a theme or a melody according to the esthetic of that
period, mattered far more than the phrase in question. Handel, when told
of some passage from another composer found in his music had a way of
retorting: “The pig did not know what to do with such a theme.” Then,
too, he adapted to broader purposes music he had conceived earlier in
other connections. “Messiah”, for instance, offers many cases in point.
The chorus “His yoke is easy, His burthen is light” was adapted for
better or worse from an Italian duet composed originally to the words
“Quel fior che all’ alba ride”; the great “For unto us a Child is born”,
was a madrigal denouncing “Blind Love and Cruel Beauty” thus: “No, di
voi non vo’ fidarmi”, while “All we like sheep have gone astray” was at
first the Italian duet “So per prova i vostri inganni.” The great
ensemble, “And with His Stripes”, employs the same fugal subject which
Bach put to use in the A minor fugue of the “Well Tempered Clavier” and
is also found in the Kyrie of Mozart’s “Requiem.” But themes of this
type were “in the air” in that period and fairly recognized as general
property. It would be preposterous to labor too much the points
involved—the more so as every now and then the practice is “avenged” (if
we like!) by some awkwardness of accent or clumsiness of declamation
which results by forcing the older phrase into a newer textual
association. Such things are very different from the barefaced claim
Bononcini once made to having composed a certain work which, as it
transpired, had been written by a minor musician living in Vienna. Then
too, in the phrase of W. McNaught, “Handel did not borrow the thoughts
of others; he rescued them.” And it must never be forgotten that men
like Bach and Handel faced deadlines unthinkable to any musician of

Following “Judas Maccabaeus” Handel’s fortunes rose once more and after
his conflicts with ill-will and intrigue he was the incontestable
victor. The consequence, far from rest and relaxation, was another
stream of great works not all of them, unfortunately, having become as
familiar to posterity as they undoubtedly deserve to be. Oratorios like
“Alexander Balus”, “Susanna”, “Joshua”, “Solomon” and “Jephtha”,
treasurable as they are, are known to few, probably because they are
eclipsed by the gigantic shadows cast by “Messiah”, “Judas Maccabaeus”
or “Israel in Egypt.” In 1749 he had written “Theodora”, which failed.
Its ill luck does not seem to have moved him to more than a kind of
“wise-crack” to the effect that “the Jews would not come to it because
the story was Christian and the ladies because it was virtuous.” In the
same year he composed a scene from Tobias Smollet’s “Alceste”, parts of
which he later used in his “Choice of Hercules”.

For the signing of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, the King
demanded a showy festival, little as there was to celebrate in the
termination of a war both unpopular and remote. Handel was commissioned
to compose music for an ostentatious show to culminate in a grand
display of fireworks in Green Park, where a vast and grotesque wooden
building, surmounted by unsightly allegorical figures, had been set up.
Twelve thousand people foregathered for a rehearsal of Handel’s music,
in Vauxhall Gardens, and traffic as a result, was desperately tangled.
At the actual celebration everything went awry, the fireworks fizzled
and to provide a humiliating climax the edifice in Green Park caught
fire. Newman Flower tells in a colorful account of the event that Handel
had “a magnificent band worthy of the occasion ... forty trumpets,
twenty horns, sixteen hautboys, sixteen bassoons, eight pair of
kettledrums; for the first time he introduced that forgotten instrument,
the serpent into his score, but took it out again.... He had for that
night as fine a band as he ever conducted.”

Handel’s contribution, indeed, was the one indisputable success of the
occasion. He gave the bright and sonorous “Fireworks Music” (a kind of
companion piece to the “Water Music”) the month after the Green Park
fiasco for the Foundling Hospital, or “The Hospital for the Maintenance
and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children.” The concert
brought Handel the Governorship of the institution.

The Foundling Asylum was a pride and pleasure to Handel in his declining
years. He presented it with a new organ, opened it himself with a
performance of “Messiah” on May 1, 1750, when countless persons of
distinction had to be turned away since the Asylum chapel accommodated
only 1,000. From that time on the master saw to it that the oratorio was
sung there every year and that the proceeds, always considerable, were
donated to the Hospital. Not to be behind his great associate, the
artist, Hogarth, who subsequently shared with Handel the governorship,
donated a portrait he had painted to the Hospital, raffled it off and
gave the proceeds to the Asylum.

The composer went one last time to Halle and arrived in Germany, Rolland
points out, just at the time his greatest contemporary, Bach, died in
Leipzig. His own health was deteriorating, though his mind remained
clear and his brain active. To be sure his sight had begun to trouble
him. Yet when Thomas Morell, in January, 1751, gave him a libretto,
“Jephtha”, he set to work composing it at once. He who had turned out
the sublimities of “Messiah” in four weeks and the martial grandeurs of
“Judas Maccabaeus” in even less had, however, to break off for ten days
after the opening _Largo_ of the chorus “How dark, O Lord, are Thy
ways.” And he painfully set down on the manuscript: “I reached here on
Wednesday, February 13, had to discontinue on account of the sight of my
left eye.” On his 66th birthday (February 23) he wrote “Feel a little
better. Resumed work” and set the words “Grief follows joy as night the
day.” Then he stopped for four months and did not complete the whole
score till the end of August, 1751. The last four numbers had taken him
more time than he usually spent on an entire oratorio. By that time he
had gone completely blind.

Two years later he regained control of himself, played the organ at
twelve oratorio productions he gave annually in Lent. He was, even, with
the assistance of his pupil and secretary, John Christopher Smith, son
of an old Halle school friend, to compose some more music and to remodel
his old Italian oratorio, “The Triumph of Time and Truth.” He had
submitted to the care of a notorious quack, the “opthalmiater” Chevalier
John Taylor, who then enjoyed an extensive vogue among distinguished
patients and who boasted that he had seen, on his travels, “a vast
variety of singular animals, such as dromedaries, camels, etc., and
particularly at Leipsick, where a celebrated master of musick (Bach)
already arrived to his 88th year (sic!) received his sight by my hands.”
In any case, the different physicians hid nothing from their patient.
His case was hopeless, he was afflicted with “gutta serena”. With his
sight his best source of inspiration was gone.

“This man”, said Romain Rolland, “who was neither an intellectual nor a
mystic, one who loved above all things light and nature, beautiful
pictures and the spectacular view of things, who lived more through his
eyes than most of the German musicians, was engulfed in deepest night.
From 1752 to 1759, he was overtaken by the semi-consciousness which
precedes death.” He had made his will in 1750 and at different times in
the next nine years he added codicils to it. On April 6, 1759, he played
the organ a last time at a “Messiah” performance, broke down in the
middle of a number, recovered and improvised, it was said, with his
old-time magnificence. Then he was brought home and they put him to bed.

Handel expressed a desire to be buried in Westminster Abbey; and he
said: “I want to die on Good Friday in the hope of rejoining the good
God, my sweet Lord and Saviour, on the day of His Resurrection.” On
Saturday, April 14, 1759, the _Whitehall Evening Post_, announced: “This
morning, a little before eight o’clock, died the deservedly celebrated
George Frederick Handell Esq.” And a week later: “Last night about eight
o’clock, the remains of the late great Mr. Handel were deposited at the
foot of the Duke of Argyll’s Monument in Westminster Abbey; and though
he had mentioned being privately interr’d, yet from the Respect due to
so celebrated a Man, the Bishop, Prebends, and the whole Choir attended
to pay the last Honours due to his Memory; the Bishop himself performed
the Service. A Monument is also to be erected for him, which there is no
doubt but his Works will even outlive. There was almost the greatest
Concourse of People of all Ranks ever seen upon such, or indeed upon any
other occasion.” Nevertheless, others have testified that Handel was not
“burried midst a great concourse of people.” Ironically enough, the
music performed at his obsequies was “Dr. Croft’s Funeral Anthem.”

In the Poets’ Corner a rather mediocre monument, by L. F. Roubiliac, was
later unveiled to his memory “under the patronage and in the presence of
His Most Gracious Majesty, George III.” But the lordly George Frideric
Handel might have been prouder of the monument the dying Beethoven
reared to his greatness when, pointing to Arnold’s Handelian edition by
his bed, he exclaimed: “There lies the Truth!”

                      COMPLETE LIST OF RECORDINGS
                              OF NEW YORK

                            COLUMBIA RECORDS

              _Under the Direction of Dimitri Mitropoulos_

  Khachaturian—Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Oscar Levant, piano)—LP
  Gould—Philharmonic Waltzes (Zino Francescatti, violin)—LP
  Rabaud—La Procession Nocturne (Zino Francescatti, violin)—LP
  Saint-Saens—Dance Macabre (Robert, Gaby & Jean Casadesus, pianists)—LP
  Saint-Saens—Le Rouet D’Omphale (Zino Francescatti, violin)—LP
  Saint-Saens—Violin Concerto, Op. 61 (Zino Francescatti, violin)—LP
  Sessions—Symphony No. 2

                 _Under the Direction of Bruno Walter_

  Barber—Symphony No. 1, Op. 9
  Beethoven—Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra in C major
        (with J. Corigliano, L. Rose and W. Hendl)—LP
  Beethoven—Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major (“Emperor”) (with Rudolf
        Serkin, piano)—LP
  Beethoven—Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra (with Joseph
  Beethoven—Symphony No. 1 in C major. Op. 21—LP
  Beethoven—Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”)—LP
  Beethoven—Symphony No. 5 in C minor—LP
  Beethoven—Symphony No. 8 in F major—LP
  Beethoven—Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral”) (with Elena Nikolaidi,
        contralto and Raoul Jobin, tenor)—LP
  Brahms—Song of Destiny (with Westminster Choir)—LP
  Dvorak—Slavonic Dance No. 1
  Dvorak—Symphony No. 4 in G major—LP
  Mahler—Symphony No. 4 in G major (with Desi Halban, soprano)—LP
  Mahler—Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor
  Mendelssohn—Concerto in E minor (with Nathan Milstein, violin)—LP
  Mendelssohn—Scherzo (from Midsummer Night’s Dream) (Nathan Milstein,
  Mozart—Cosi fan Tutti—Overture
  Mozart—Symphony No. 41 in C major (“Jupiter”), K. 551—LP
  Schubert—Symphony No. 7 in C major—LP
  Schumann, R.—Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Rhenish”)—LP
  Smetana—The Moldau (“Vltava”)—LP
  Strauss, J.—Emperor Waltz

               _Under the Direction of Leopold Stokowski_

  Copland—Billy the Kid (2 parts)
  Griffes—“The White Peacock”. Op. 7, No. 1—LP 7″
  Ippolitow—“In the Village” from Caucassian Sketches (W. Lincer and M.
        Nazzi, soloists)
  Khachaturian—“Masquerade Suite”—LP
  Sibelius—“Maiden with the Roses”—LP
  Schoenberg—Stein-Lied Der Waldtaure sus Gurrelieder (Martha Lipton,
  Tschaikowsky—Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32—LP
  Tschaikowsky—Overture Fantasy—Romeo and Juliet—LP
  Vaughan-Williams—Symphony No. 6 in E minor—LP
  Wagner—Die Walkure—Wotan Farewell and Magic Fire Music (Act III—Scene
  Wagner—Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and Siegfried’s Funeral March—(“Die
  Wagner—Overture “Rienzi”

                  _Under the Direction of Efrem Kurtz_

  Chopin—Les Sylphides—LP
  Glinka—Mazurka—“Life of the Czar”—LP 7″
  Grieg—Concerto in A minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 16 (with Oscar
        Levant, piano)—LP
  Kabalevsky—“The Comedians”, Op. 26—LP
  Khachaturian—Gayne—Ballet Suite No. 1—LP
  Khachaturian—Gayne—Ballet Suite No. 2—LP
  Lecoq—Mme. Angot Suite—LP
  Prokofieff—March, Op. 99—LP
  Rimsky-Korsakov—The Flight of the Bumble Bee—LP 7″
  Shostakovich—Polka No. 3, “The Age of Gold”—LP 7″
  Shostakovich—Symphony No. 9—LP
  Shostakovich—Valse from “Les Monts D’Or”—LP
  Wieniawski—Concerto No. 2 in D Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 22
        (with Isaac Stern, violin)—LP

                 _Under the Direction of Charles Münch_

  D’Indy—Symphony on a French Mountain Air for Orchestra and Piano
        (Robert Casadesus, piano)—LP
  Milhaud—Suite Francaise—LP
  Mozart—Concerto No. 21 for Piano and Orchestra in C major (Robert
        Casadesus, piano)—LP
  Saint-Saens—Symphony in C minor. No. 3 for Orchestra, Organ and Piano.
        Op. 78—LP

                _Under the Direction of Artur Rodzinski_

  Bizet—Carmen—Entr’acte (Prelude to Act III)
  Bizet—Symphony in C major—LP
  Brahms—Symphony No. 1 in C minor—LP
  Brahms—Symphony No. 2 in D major—LP
  Copland—A Lincoln Portrait (with Kenneth Spencer, Narrator)—LP
  Enesco—Roumanian Rhapsody—A major, No. 1—LP
  Gershwin—An American in Paris—LP
  Gould—“Spirituals” for Orchestra—LP
  Ibert—“Escales” (Port of Call)—LP
  Liszt—Mephisto Waltz—LP
  Moussorgsky—Gopack (The Fair at Sorotchinski)—LP
  Moussorgsky-Ravel—Pictures at an Exhibition—LP
  Prokofieff—Symphony No. 5—LP
  Rachmaninoff—Concerto No. 2 in C minor for Piano and Orchestra (with
        Gygory Sandor, piano)
  Rachmaninoff—Symphony No. 2 in E minor
  Saint-Saens—Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 in C minor (with
        Robert Casadesus)—LP
  Sibelius—Symphony No. 4 in A minor
  Tschaikowsky—Nutcracker Suite—LP
  Tschaikowsky—Suite “Mozartiana”—LP
  Tschaikowsky—Symphony No. 6 in B minor (“Pathetique”)—LP
  Wagner—Lohengrin—Bridal Chamber Scene (Act III—Scene 2) (with Helen
        Traubel, soprano and Kurt Baum, tenor)—LP
  Wagner—Lohengrin—Elsa’s Dream (Act I, Scene 2) (with Helen Traubel,
  Wagner—Siegfried Idyll—LP
  Wagner—Tristan und Isolde—Excerpts (with Helen Traubel, soprano)
  Wagner—Die Walkure—Act III (Complete) (with Helen Traubel, soprano and
        Herbert Janssen, baritone)—LP
  Wagner—Die Walkure—Duet (Act I, Scene 3) (with Helen Traubel, soprano
        and Emery Darcy, tenor)—LP
  Wolf-Ferrari—“Secret of Suzanne”, Overture

                _Under the Direction of Igor Stravinsky_

  Stravinsky—Firebird Suite—LP
  Stravinsky—Fireworks (Feu d’Artifice)—LP
  Stravinsky—Four Norwegian Moods
  Stravinsky—Le Sacre du Printemps (The Consecration of the Spring)—LP
  Stravinsky—Scenes de Ballet—LP
  Stravinsky—Suite from “Petrouchka”—LP
  Stravinsky—Symphony in Three Movements—LP

                _Under the Direction of John Barbirolli_

  Bach-Barbirolli—Sheep May Safely Graze (from the “Birthday
  Berlioz—Roman Carnival Overture
  Brahms—Symphony No. 2, in D major
  Brahms—Academic Festival Overture—LP
  Bruch—Concerto No. 1, in G minor (with Nathan Milstein, violin)—LP
  Debussy—First Rhapsody for Clarinet (with Benny Goodman, clarinet)
  Debussy—Petite Suite: Ballet
  Mozart—Concerto in B-flat major (with Robert Casadesus, piano)
  Mozart—Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183
  Ravel—La Valse
  Rimsky-Korsakov—Capriccio Espagnol
  Sibelius—Symphony No. 1, in E minor
  Sibelius—Symphony No. 2, in D major
  Smetana—The Bartered Bride—Overture
  Tchaikowsky—Theme and Variations (from Suite No. 3 in G)—LP

              _Under the Direction of Sir Thomas Beecham_

  Mendelssohn—Symphony No. 4, in A major (“Italian”)
  Sibelius—Melisande (from “Pelleas and Melisande”)
  Sibelius—Symphony No. 7 in C major—LP
  Tschaikowsky—Capriccio Italien

               _Under the Direction of Andre Kostelanetz_

  Gershwin—Concerto in F (with Oscar Levant)—LP

               _Under the Direction of Leonard Bernstein_

  Bernstein—“Age of Anxiety”

                 _Under the Direction of Morton Gould_

  Gould—“Quick Step”—LP

                _Under the Direction of Darius Milhaud_

  Milhaud—Suite Francaise—LP

                 _Under the Direction of George Szell_

  Smetana—Bohemia’s Fields and Groves—LP
  Smetana—Symphonic Poem, Vltava (The Moldau)—LP
  LP—Also available on Long Playing Microgroove Recordings as well as on
        the conventional Columbia Masterworks.

                             VICTOR RECORDS

               _Under the Direction of Arturo Toscanini_

  Beethoven—Symphony No. 7 in A major
  Brahms—Variations on a Theme by Haydn
  Dukas—The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  Gluck—Orfeo ed Euridice—Dance of the Spirits
  Haydn—Symphony No. 4 in D major (The Clock)
  Mendelssohn—Midsummer Night’s Dream—Scherzo
  Mozart—Symphony in D major (K. 385)
  Rossini—Barber of Seville—Overture
  Rossini—Italians in Algiers—Overture
  Verdi—Traviata—Preludes to Acts I and II
  Wagner—Excerpts—Lohengrin—Die Götterdämmerung—Siegfried Idyll

                _Under the Direction of John Barbirolli_

  Debussy—Iberia (Images, Set 3, No. 2)
  Purcell—Suite for Strings with four Horns, Two Flutes, English Horn
  Respighi—Fountains of Rome
  Respighi—Old Dances and Airs (Special recording for members of the
        Philharmonic-Symphony League of New York)
  Schubert—Symphony No. 4 in C minor (Tragic)
  Schumann—Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor (with Yehudi
        Menuhin, violin)
  Tschaikowsky—Francesca da Rimini—Fantasia

               _Under the Direction of Willem Mengelberg_

  J. C. Bach—Arr. Stein—Sinfonia in B-flat major
  J. S. Bach—Arr. Mahler—Air for G string (from Suite for Orchestra)
  Beethoven—Egmont Overture
  Handel—Alcina Suite
  Mendelssohn—War March of the Priests (from Athalia)
  Meyerbeer—Prophete—Coronation March
  Saint-Saens—Rouet d’Omphale (Omphale’s Spinning Wheel)
  Schelling—Victory Ball
  Wagner—Flying Dutchman—Overture
  Wagner—Siegfried—Forest Murmurs (Waldweben)

                     Special Booklets published for
                             RADIO MEMBERS
                              OF NEW YORK

  POCKET-MANUAL of Musical Terms.
      Edited by Dr. Th. Baker (G. Schirmer’s)
  BEETHOVEN and his Nine Symphonies
      by Pitts Sanborn
  BRAHMS and some of his Works
      by Pitts Sanborn
  MOZART and some Masterpieces
      by Herbert F. Peyser
  WAGNER and his Music-Dramas
      by Robert Bagar
  TSCHAIKOWSKY and his Orchestral Music
      by Louis Biancolli
  JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH and a few of his major works
      by Herbert F. Peyser
  SCHUBERT and his work
      by Herbert F. Peyser
      by Herbert F. Peyser
  ROBERT SCHUMANN—Tone-Poet, Prophet and Critic
      by Herbert F. Peyser
  *HECTOR BERLIOZ—A Romantic Tragedy
      by Herbert F. Peyser
  *JOSEPH HAYDN—Servant and Master

These booklets are available to Radio Members at 25c each while the
supply lasts except those indicated by asterisk.

                      _Great Performances by the_
                         Orchestra of New York
                      _on Columbia 33⅓ LP Records_


  Saint-Saens: _Danse Macabre_; _Le Rouet d’Omphale, Op. 40_
  Rabau: _La Procession Nocturne_
  LP Record ML 2170

  Khachaturian: _Concerto for Piano and Orchestra_ (_with Oscar Levant,
  LP Record ML 4288
  Also on 78 rpm Set MM-905

  BRUNO WALTER conducting

  Beethoven: _Symphony 7 in A Major, Op. 92_
  LP Record ML 4414

  Beethoven: _Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67_
  LP Record ML 4297 Also on 78 rpm Set MM-912


  Tchaikovsky: _Romeo & Juliet_; _Francesca de Rimini_
  LP Record ML 4381

  GEORGE SZELL conducting

  Smetana: _The Moldau_; _Bohemia’s Fields and Groves_
  LP Record 2177

  EFREM KURTZ conducting

  Chopin: _Les Sylphides—Ballet_ (_Orchestrated by A. Gretchaninov_)
  Villa-Lobos: _Uirapurú_ (_A Symphonic Poem_)
  LP Record ML 4288

                          Columbia LP Records
               First, Finest, Foremost in Recorded Music

                          Transcriber’s Notes

--A few palpable typos were silently corrected.

--Illustrations were shifted to the nearest paragraph break.

--Copyright notice is from the printed exemplar. (U.S. copyright was not
  renewed: this ebook is in the public domain.)

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