Music Composers

Georg Friedrich Handel-Part 11

Handel was appointed director of the chapel of the Duke of Chandos at Cannons, where he composed the twelve works known as the Chandos Anthems, as well as the Chandos Te Deum and the Suite de Pieces for the harpsichord, a series of compositions, among them the famous air, with variations, known under the name The Harmonious Blacksmith. His chief work at Cannons was the oratorio Esther, for which the Duke paid him 1,000. In 1719 he was engaged by a society of noblemen as a composer for a new undertaking which had been formed under the title, "Royal Academy of Music," having for its object the establishment of Italian opera in England. A fund of 50,000 was raised, and the King contributed 1,000. The first thing was to secure the leading singers, and for this purpose Handel proceeded, in February, 1719, to Dusseldorf and Dresden and engaged Senesino, the world known eunuch (his real name was Francesco Bernardi) Boschi and Signora Durastani. From Dresden Handel went to Halle on a visit to his old mother, and while there just missed meeting his great contemporary Johann Sebastian Bach. The latter had long desired to see his celebrated brother musician, and immediately on hearing of Handel's presence in Halle he started off. Unfortunately, Handel had left for England the day before Bach arrived, and so it happened that these two musical giants in the course of their long lives never once met.

Ariosti and Bononcini had been also engaged for the same undertaking. These two men, though inferior to Handel, had their admirers. The Duchess of Marlborough especially had a decided preference for Bononcini. The directors of the Academy, taking into account these divided sympathies, caused the three musicians, with a view to test the abilities of each, to combine together in the composition of the next opera. The subject chosen for the libretto was Muzio Scevola, and the poem was divided into three parts, each forming a separate act. Ariosti undertook the first act, Bononcini the second and Handel the third. Handel's part was at once decided by the public to be immensely superior to the rest of the work, but the supporters of the rival composers remained unconvinced. WE do not need to point out the bad taste of such an artistic compound.

The Etude Magazine June 1920






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