Music – George Frederick Handel

Born 1685 died 1759. Handel was born at Halle, in Saxony. His father was a surgeon, who took practical means to stifle his son’s musical aspirations, but finding himself unsuccessful, gave way gracefully, and allowed him the best teaching available.

At eighteen the youth went to Hamburg, and became a Violinist in the Opera Orchestra, getting also incidental experience in conducting (at that time carried on at a Harpsichord, by the playing of which the control of the band was effected) ; he also wrote some Operas, and had them performed.

At twenty-one Handel went to Italy, and absorbed operatic traditions nearer their source. On his return the Elector of Hanover made him Kapellmeister, or chief musician.

Shortly afterwards, obtaining leave of absence, Handel came twice to England, where he performed the opera Rinaldo and became too popular and prosperous to wish to return to his Kapellmeister duties. Then, his Elector becoming George I of England, Handel found himself in disfavour with the reigning sovereign. He regained favour, and the new approval took the acceptable form of a life pension of £200, as an addition to a pension already bestowed by Queen Anne.

London operatic enterprises carried Handel to a great pitch of popularity and wealth—and then to poverty. Opera became a party matter, the King supporting Handel’s house and the Prince of Wales a rival establishment. Competition led to excessive expenditure upon high-priced vocalists, and at fifty-two Handel was declared bankrupt. He re-established himself by writing Oratorios, and the best few of these had a clear run of 150 years’ popularity before, at the nineteenth-twentieth turn of the century, their vogue fell almost completely away. The Operas had been dropped long before this.’

Ottone and Rodelinda were revived at Göttingen in 1921, Cesare in 1922, and Orlando Furioso at Halle in 1922. It is reported (January 1923).

At sixty Handel began to suffer ill-health, and a little later his eyesight failed. He died blind at seventy-four.

This is the merest summary of a life that was full of incident, and that deserves study, especially since its details throw much light upon musical-social conditions in England in the first half of the eighteenth century.

FURTHER READING. Ten-page article by Julian Marshall in Grove’s Dictionary ; a very well-drawn thirty-five page sketch in Parry’s Studies of Great Composers; Fuller-Maitland’s The Age of Bach ani Handel (vol. iv. of the ‘Oxford History of Music’); chapters vii and viii in Parry’s Evolution of the Art of Music; chapters iv—vi in vol. i of Colles’s The Growth of Music; Rockstro’s Life of George Frederick Handel (Macmillan, 1883, now out of print) ; Streatfeild’s Handel (Methuen, I0s. 6d.) ; Cummings’ Handel (Bell, Is. 6d.). Newman Flower’s George Frideric Handel, his Personality and his Times (Cassell, 1923, 21s.).

PRINTED MUSIC. For ORATORIOS, &c., see Messrs. Novello’s catalogue. PIANO Music (i. e. really written for Harpsichord) : Suites, Peters’ and other editions: there is plenty of enjoyable playing in these (some of it not difficult), and they are neglected. VIOLIN AND PIANO: several Sonatas published by Augener (2s. 6d. and 3s. each) ; other works in catalogues of Novellos and other publishers. VOCAL. Various convenient albums of Songs are published by Novello and others. ORGAN. See Augener’s and Novello’s catalogues.

PLAYER-PIANO. Harmonious Blacksmith (Æolian, 65 or 88 notes), see note under ` Gramophone Records’. Overture to ‘ Samson’ (Æolian, 65 or 88 notes). Also an Air à la Bourrée (88), the ‘Celebrated Largo’ (65 or 88), selections from Messiah, `arranged’, and a few other things.

GRAMOPHONE RECORDS. KEYBOARD MUSIC: Harmonious Blacksmith (Harpsichord, Mrs. Gordon Woodhouse; H. M. V.) ; this is really the Air and Variations from Suite V ; the fancy name is not Handel’s. VIOLIN MUSIC : Larghetto (Zimbalist ; H. M. V.) ; Minuet in E (Mar-. jorie Hayward ; H. M. V.) ; Minuet in F (Isolde Menges ; H. M. V.) ; Fourth Sonata (Isolde Menges ; H. M. V.) ; Sixth Sonata (Kubelik ; H. M. V. ; Adagio and Allegro only). Music FOR VIOLIN, VIOLA AND PIANO: 1st and 4th Movements from Sonata VIII (Sammons, Tertis, Kiddle; V.) VOCAL Music: Angels ever bright and fair (Soprano, Alma Gluck; H. M. V.) ; Arm, Arm, ye Brave (Bass, Robert Radford ; H. M. V.) ; Come, beloved Care selve (Soprano, Alma Gluck; H. M. V.) ; Honour and Arms (Bass, Robert Radford ; H. M. V. ; Norman Allin ; C.) ; Recit. I rage, I melt, I burn, and Aria, O Ruddier than the Cherry (Bass, Robert Radford ; H. M. V. ; Norman Allin ; C.) ; Recit. and Aria, Ombra mai fu (Caruso ; H. M. V. ; and Clara Butt ; C. Also known in various instrumental ‘ arrangements’ as `The Celebrated Largo’ ; C.) ; O sleep, why dos/ thou leave me? (Soprano, Alma Gluck; H. M. V.) ; Where’er you walk (Tenor, Gervase Elwes, also Mullings ; C.) ; He shall feed His flock (Contralto, Clara Butt; C.) ; Rend’ il sereno (Contralto, Clara Butt; C.) ; Sound an Alarm (Tenor, Arthur Jordan ; C.). ORCHESTRA. Water Music, Suite arranged for Modern Orchestra by Hamilton Harty (Hallé Orchestra ; C. Two double-sided records ; if only buying one, let it be the one with `parts 3 and 4′, which is the better).