Chapter

You Can Never Be Right for All Time

Bernard D. Sherman

in Inside Early Music

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195169454
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865017 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195169454.003.0014
You Can Never Be Right for All Time

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George Frideric Handel was the first composer in history whose works never fell out of the concert repertory. But despite the reverence for him, only a little of his music was actually performed in the 19th century. Messiah was one of them, of course, sung with increasingly gargantuan choruses and orchestras, and so were Samson, Israel in Egypt, and Judas Maccabeus. But such masterpieces as Theodora, Giulio Cesare, Jephtha, Orlando, and L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato occupied few beyond the occasional scholar. The coincidence of the Handel revival with the historical-performance movement has raised a number of issues. A more basic issue is the works themselves. When certain works by a widely revered composer are almost never played, one might be forgiven for suspecting that these works are of lesser quality. Such suspicions have faded in recent decades, but doubts about the stageworthiness of the operas persist. This chapter presents an interview with Nicholas McGegan on Handel, use of countertenors for the operatic roles written by Handel for castrati, early music singing in Handel, improvisation with Baroque orchestras, ornamentation in Handel’s works, harmony, rubato, Handel’s rhythmic notation, technical perfection, period pronunciation in English-language oratorios, and overdotting.

Keywords: George Frideric Handel; operas; Nicholas McGegan; classical music; countertenors; oratorios; castrati; early music; improvisation; ornamentation

Chapter.  6998 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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