(Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the correct spelling of his name?
There multiple spellings that perhaps indicate Handel's cosmopolitan pan-european career.
What was Handel's religious background?
Where can I find the words (libretto) to Messiah?
Please here for the libretto.
How did the tradition of the audience standing during the 'Hallelujah' chorus (from Messiah) begin? Did a King start this tradition and why did he stand?
It is difficult to provide a definitive answer on this subject, because the evidence is sketchy. The following anecdote wasn't published until 1780; approximately 40 years after the event is reported to have occurred:
"...When Messiah was first performed in London (1743), when the chorus struck up, 'For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth' ['Hallelujah Chorus'), reportedly the audience and King [George II] stood and remained standing untill the chorus had ended..."Sources: Biographica Dramatica: "On the authority of the Earl of Kinnoul"; quoted in G. Hogarth: Musical History, Biography and Criticism (1838) and James Beattie (1780)In short, we cannot be certain King George II was even present at this performance of Messiah. Assuming he was present and that he was the first to stand, we certainly cannot adequately speculate on what motivated him to do this. There are other theories, but it is possible that the tradition of standing for the 'Hallelujah' chorus was not connected directly to Handel's own performances in any way.
When was Messiah first performed in the United States?
A partial performance took place on 16 January, 1770, at George Burn's Music Room in the New York City Tavern. As reported by the 'New York Journal':"...A SACRED ORATORIO, on the Prophecies concerning CHRIST, and his Coming: being an Extract from the late Mr. Handel's Grand Oratorio, called the MESSIAH, consisting of the Ouverture, and sixteen other Pieces, viz, Airs, Recitatives, and Choruses. Never performed in America."Messiah in its entirety (albeit spread over several nights) was performed by The Handel & Haydn Society (Boston). On each successive night (1, 4, 6 April, 1817) one part of Messiah and the corresponding part of Haydn's Creation were performed.It wasn't until Christmas Day, 1818, (at Boylston Hall, Boston, performed by The Handel & Haydn Society), that the entire oratorio had its single-performance United States premiere.
Can you recommend any books on Handel?
Visit references for an extensive list of Handelian literature.
If Handel was born in 1685, why do the Westminster Abbey Handel monument and floor plaque list his birthdate as "February XXIII, MDCLXXXIV" and "1684", respectively? Similarly, why was the first centennial festival of his birth observed in 1784?
Handel's contemporaries believed Handel's birthdate was 23 February 1684. This spurious birthdate was miscalculated under the incorrect assumption that Handel was born under the old Julian calendar. Rather, at the time of his birth in Saxony/Magdeburg, the new Gregorian calendar was already in use there. Dates using the Julian calendar placed the beginning dates of a year (up through March 25 — the day the "new year" began in the Julian calendar) as dates from the previous year.
What is the other name for "Handel's Largo" and from which of Handel's larger compositions does it originate?
This work is the aria 'Ombra mai fù' from the opera Serse (Xerxes). In this aria, Serse (King of Persia) stands under a tree in his garden and sings to it. Handel's tempo marking is Larghetto (not Largo). The lyrics follow:
From which of Handel's larger compositions does 'Lascia ch'io pianga' originate?
This aria originates from the opera Rinaldo. The lyrics follow:
What are the lyrics to the aria 'Where'er you walk?' (from Semele)
Where'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade;
What are the lyrics to the aria 'See, the conqu'ring hero comes!'?
See, the conqu'ring hero comes!The chorus is from Joshua, but was later inserted into a revival of Judas Maccabaeus and is more famous in that context.
What is Handel's relationship to the hymn 'Thine is the Glory' (or 'Thine Be the Glory')?
The hymn is an arrangement of Handel's "See, the conqu'ring hero comes!" — a chorus composed for the oratorio Joshua but is usually associated with the oratorio Judas Maccabaeus. Like many other pieces of Handel's music, it was given a sacred text and used for Church services following Handel's death. (Edmond Louis Budry wrote the hymn's text in French in 1884. Richard Birch Hoyle translated the words from French to English in 1923.)
Did Handel compose Christmas carols?
Indirectly, yes...John Foster (1762-1822, of High Green House, Yorkshire) composed While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night by adapting the aria 'Non vi piacque, ingiusti Dei' from Handel's opera Siroe. Many versions of Hark! the Herald Angels Sing were composed during the 18th Century. Edward Miller (1735-1807, Doncaster) composed a version by arranging 'See, the Conqu'ring Hero Comes' from Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabaeus.Thomas Taylor (Chester) reworked the harpsichord suite The Harmonious Blacksmith to yield Hymning Seraphs Wake the Morn.
From which larger work does Handel's 'Dead March' originate?
The 'Dead March' (lamenting the deaths of Saul and Jonathan) comes from Act III of Handel's oratorio Saul.
From which larger work does Handel's 'Arrival of the Queen of Sheba' originate?
This 'Sinfonia' opens Act III of Handel's oratorio Solomon. It's nickname was invented in the 20th century.
What are your favorite Handel recordings? Which recordings would you take with you to a desert island?
This would change according to when you ask. Click here for Brad Leissa's desert island discs, here for David Vickers's selections, and here for Philippe Gelinaud's recommendations - these give a snapshot of how we thought about things in the early 2000s.
When did Handel compose 'Thanks Be to Thee', 'Dank sei Dir, Herr', or 'Solo con te'?
Although choral publications or recordings with Jessye Norman, Sarah Brightman, or Barabara Streisand attribute these works to Handel, it doesn't appear Handel composed any of them. 'Thanks Be to Thee' is said to be an arrangement of Handel's 'Dank sei Dir, Herr'. However, this is a spurious Handelian work. References to 'Dank sei Dir, Herr' being composed by Handel date from the late 19th century in Germany. The true origins of 'Dank sei Dir, Herr' remain unknown. Channing LeFebvre arranged 'Dank sei Dir, Herr' for organ. Siegfried Ochs is generally attributed with the first arrangement of 'Dank sei Dir, Herr' resulting in 'Thanks Be to Thee'. 'Thanks Be to Thee' was arranged by many other composers, including Vogel, Page, Houseknecht, Christiansen, Harris, Shaw, Causey, Bement, Wilson, Wiley, Forsblad, Nichols, et al. Although the origins of 'Thanks Be to Thee' and 'Dank sei Dir, Herr' are cloudy, Handel scholars are convinced that Handel did not compose either work. (Note: For more information about this spurious Handelian association, see Martin Staehelin's paper titled 'Dank sei Dir, Herr' Zur Erklärung einer Händel-Fälschung des frühen zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts from the Göttinger Händel-Beiträge, volume 2, 1986. pp. 194-206.) With regard to 'Solo con te', this is a spurious Handelian work as well. Chiara Ferraù is credited with the lyrics.
Did Handel compose 'Art Thou Troubled?'
Jean Ashworth Bartle (director of the Toronto Children's Chorus) adapted the aria 'Dove sei, amato bene' from the opera Rodelinda. Lyrics were by WG Rothery.
I'm planning a trip to Britain, and I'd like to visit some Handelian landmarks. What should I visit?
What is the 'Handel Medallion'?
The Handel Medallion is the highest official honor given by the City of New York and is presented by the Mayor to individuals for their contributions to the City's cultural life. The Handel Medallion was established in 1959 on the 200th anniversary of Handel's death. Over the years, the Medallion has been awarded to renowned artists such as Benny Goodman, Richard Rodgers, George Abbot, Charlie Chaplin, Lena Horne, Martha Graham, Beverly Sills, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Yehudi Menuhin, etc..
What is the 'Händel-Preis' (Handel Prize)?
The Händel-Preis is awarded by the city of Halle “for exceptional artistic, academic or politico-cultural services as far as these are connected with the city of Halle’s Handel commemoration”. The prize consists of a diploma, a badge, and prize money and is presented during the annual Halle Handel Festival:
What are the 'Aylesford Sonatas'?
These keyboard sonatas/suites come from the larger 'Aylesford Collection'. This collection, named after the 3rd Earl of Aylesford, was originally assembled by Handel's librettist, Charles Jennens, and subsequently bequeathed to Jennens' cousin, the Earl, in 1773.The term 'Aylesford Sonatas/Suites' usually refers to those pieces published by Schott in 1928 in an edition by William Barclay Squire and J. A. Fuller-Maitland (2 vols.). The title is Stücke fur Clavicembalo (Pieces for Harpsichord). Volumes 3 & 4 of Bärenreiter's four-volume edition of the keyboard music include works from the Aylesford Collection (and others). These volumes (which contain the miscellaneous keyboard pieces, whether from the Aylesford collection or other sources), edited by Terence Best, have the publisher's number BA 4223-4224. (Credit: Professor John Roberts, University of California, Berkeley)
What are the 'Fitzwilliam Sonatas'?
The Fitzwilliam Sonatas consist of three recorder sonatas:
Did Handel compose 'Silent Worship'?
Arthur Somervell adapted the aria 'Non lo dirò col labbro' from Handel's opera Tolomeo; the result was 'Silent Worship'. 'Silent Worship' was performed by Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor in the 1996 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma.
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