In my last entry, I made the claim that I listen to Handel’s music more than the music of any other composer. Why? Because his music is just so beautiful. I hope to answer this question more conclusively over the next couple of weeks, but, for today, I’ll let Handel make his own case.
Let me set the stage, as it were. Handel spent much of his early career working in Italy. His Dixit Dominus, the subject of the last entry, dates from that period. In 1710, Handel arrived in London, beating his most famous employer, George I, to the capitol by almost four years. Newly arrived, Handel debuted a new opera in 1711 and Handel’s fortunes would very much ride on how it was received.
The opera, Rinaldo, was a hit, thanks in no small part to this remarkable aria, one of the highlights in operatic history.
George Friderich Handel, Rinaldo: “Lascia ch’io pianga“
More than three hundred years later, Handel finally became a video star.
While Handel’s operas have made a comeback in recent years (more on those later), his oratorios are his claim to fame, especially his Messiah, the great Easter oratorio that is bizarrely a worldwide fixture during Christmas. Composed forty years after Rinaldo, the Messiah reveals a composer fully in command of his craft while losing none of the tunefulness that was his original ticket to success.
George Friderich Handel, Messiah: “And He shall purify”
And, for a closing argument, there can only be one choice. SInce its composition in 1727, Handel’s Zadok the Priest has been sung at the coronation of every British monarch since George II. Despite the title’s reference to the anointing of King Solomon, the text has been used in every coronation of English monarchs since King Edgar, who was crowned in Bath 100 years before The Conquest. Just wait for that chorus to enter. Gets me every time.
George Friderich Handel, Zadok the Priest
That is just some spectacular noise, as the jazz guys would say 300 years later. No wonder Beethoven considered him to be the greatest composer who ever lived.