Music Composers

Georg Friedrich Handel-Part 6

The relation Handel contracted with Mattheson was much to their mutual benefit. Mattheson was a young citizen of Hamburg, a composer, a singer and an actor, very clever on the organ and the harpsichord and afterward a writer of astonishing fertility. Born 1681, he prided himself, when eighty-three years old, on having written as many books upon all sorts of subjects as he had lived years. (The most important are: Critica Musica [1722], Grundlage einer Ehreupforte [1740] and Georg Friedrich Handel [1760].) Many of his works teem with documents on the history of music of that epoch. He had known Handel from his arrival in Hamburg, and they exchanged lessons, Handel teaching Mattheson counterpoint, while Mattheson initiated Handel into the dramatic style. Thus they were bound together by a friendship which, once in its course, nearly came to a tragic conclusion. In 1704 was performed Mattheson's third opera, Cleopatra, in which the composer himself sang the part of Anthony. After the death of Anthony, Mattheson was accustomed to conduct the remainder of the performance himself. To this the former director, Kaiser, had never made any objection. But young Handel, who was conducting, was less accommodating and bluntly refused to give up the harpsichord when the resuscitated Anthony presented himself. The other was very much irritated at being deprived of his usual privilege as a maestro, and at the end of the representation he overwhelmed Handel with reproaches. His complaints were not received very graciously, and they had scarcely got out of the theatre when the enraged Mattheson administered to the offender a box on the ear. Swords were immediately drawn, and the two angry friends fought there in front of the theatre. Mattheson's weapon split on a large metal button on the coat of his adversary, and this happy circumstance terminated the combat; whereupon Mattheson exclaimed; "If you break your sword upon your friend you no not injure him so much as if you reconciled," and they became better friends than ever. There is no question that the intimacy of Handel with the highly gifted Mattheson had a decided influence on his artistic development and achievement.

The Etude Magazine June 1920






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