Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/661

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HANDEL.
649
 

Handel afterwards used for the beautiful song in 'Rinaldo,' 'Lascia ch'io pianga.' His other works at this time were the operas 'Daphne' and 'Florinda,' and a German Cantata on the Passion.

In 1706 he set off on a journey to Italy. He went to Florence, Venice, Rome, and Naples, producing during this time both operas and sacred music, and always with the greatest success. Among these works may be mentioned two Latin Psalms, 'Dixit Dominus' and 'Laudate Pueri;' two Operas, 'Rodrigo' and 'Agrippina;' two Oratorios, 'Resurrezione' and 'Il Trionfo del Tempo;' and the serenata 'Aci, Galatea, e Poliferno,' produced at Naples, and quite distinct from the subsequent English work of a similar name. This serenata is remarkable for an air, written for some Bass singer whose name has remained unknown, but whose voice must have been extraordinary, for this song requires a compass of no less than two octaves and a fifth [App. p.664 "sixth"]! [BASS.]

In 1709 Handel returned to Germany, where the Elector of Hanover (afterwards George I of England) offered him the post of Capellmeister, held till then by the Abbé Steffani, who himself designated Handel as his successor. The latter had already received pressing invitations from England, and he only accepted the Capellmeistership on the condition that he should be allowed to visit this country, whither he came at the end of 1710.

Italian music had recently become the fashion in London; operas 'on the Italian model,' that is, with the dialogue in recitative, having been first given in 1705, at Drury Lane, and afterwards at the King's [App. p.664 "Queen's"] Theatre. The opera of 'Rinaldo,' written by Handel in fourteen days, was first performed on February 24, 1711. It was mounted with a magnificence then quite unusual; and, among other innovations, the gardens of Armida were filled with living birds, a piece of realism hardly outdone in these days. The music was enthusiastically received, and it at once established its composer's reputation. He was obliged, at the end of six months, to return to his post in Hanover; but he had found in London a fitter field for the exercise of his genius; and in January, 1712, he was here again, nor had he yet made up his mind to leave England for Hanover, when the Elector of that State succeeded to the English throne. It was not to be expected that the new king should look with favourable eyes on his truant Capellmeister, who, for his part, kept carefully out of the way. Peace was, however, brought about by the good offices of the Hanoverian Baron Kilmanseck, who requested Handel to compose some music for the occasion of an aquatic fête given by the king. The result was the series of twenty-five pieces, known as the 'Water Music.' These, performed under Handel's direction by an orchestra in a barge which followed the king's boat, had the effect of softening the royal resentment, and Handel's pardon was sealed not long after by a grant to the composer of an annuity of £200.

In 1716 he accompanied the king to Hanover, where he remained till 1718, producing while there his one German oratorio, the 'Passion.' This work contains great beauties, but it is very different in style from his subsequent compositions of a similar kind, still strongly suggesting the influence of Keiser and of Steffani.

On Handel's return to England, he accepted the post of chapel-master to the Duke of Chandos. This nobleman, who from the magnificence of his style of living was sometimes called the Grand Duke, had a palace named Cannons, near Edgeware, and a chapel furnished like the churches of Italy. His first chapel-master was Dr. Pepusch, his countryman, who retired gracefully in favour of the younger master. Here Handel remained for three years, with an orchestra and singers at his disposal; and produced the two 'Chandos' Te Deums, the twelve 'Chandos' Anthems, the English serenata 'Acis and Galatea,' and 'Esther,' his first English oratorio. He also taught the daughters of the Prince of Wales, for whom he wrote his 'Suites de pièces pour le Clavecin' (vol. 1). Besides all this, he, in 1720, undertook to direct the Italian Opera for the society called the Royal Academy of Music. He engaged a company of Italian singers, including Durastanti and the celebrated sopranist, Senesino; and with these he produced 'Radamisto.' The success of this opera was complete; but a party, jealous of Handel's ascendancy, was forming in opposition to him. Buononcini and Ariosti had also been attracted to London by the Royal Academy of Music, and each of these composers had a following among the supporters of the Opera.[1] It was, perhaps,

  1. BUONONCINI or BONONCINI, a family of musicians in the 17th and 18th centuries, whose name, having been omitted in its proper place, is added here. The father, Giovanni Maria, was born at Modena about 1640, and was chief musician to the Duke, Maestro di Capella of the Church of San Giovanni in Monte there, and a member of the Accademla del Filarmonici of Bologna. He was a competent and productive artist, who left compositions in many classes, vocal and instrumental, and a treatise on 'Musico prattico' (Bologna 1673, 1688), which was translated into German, and is a clear and sensible work, still of use to the student. He died Nov. 19, 1678. His son Antonio, or Marc Antonio, was born at Modena 1675. He appears to have travelled much, and to have been for some years in Germany—though this may be merely a confusion with his brother. In 1714 be was at Rome, in 1721 Maestro di Capella to the Duke of Modena, where he died July 8, 1726. 7 operas of his are mentioned as remaining in MS. His Camilla, which has been published, had an extraordinary popularity abroad: and in England ran 64 nights in 4 years (Burney iv. 210). He was apparently the best of the family, though his light is considerably obscured by his brother Giovanni Battista, on whom, rightly or wrongly, the fame of the family rests. He was born at Modena 1672, and instructed by his father and by Colonna. He was a musician of undoubted merit, though not of marked originality who suffered from too close comparison with Handel—as talent must always suffer when brought into collision with genius—and from a proud and difficult disposition very damaging to his interests. His first entrance into the musical world was as a violoncellist, in which capacity he was attached to the Court of Vienna at or about 1692. His earliest opera, Camilla (if indeed that was not his brother's), was given at Vienna about the same date: his next, 'Tullo Ostillo' and 'Serse,' at Rome 1694. In 1696 we find him and Ariosti at the Court of Berlin, when Handel, then a lad of 12, was there too for a time (Chrysander's Händel, i. 53). At Berlin he was court composer from 1703 to 1706, and a very prominent personage: but from 1706 to 1720 his time seems to have been divided between Vienna and Italy. In the latter year he received a call to London. A great impulse had recently been given to Italian opera by the establishment of the Royal Academy of Music. Handel was director, and Buononcini and Ariosti were invited over to place the new institution on the broadest possible basis. Buononcini was received with extraordinary favour, and there are perhaps few subscription-lists so remarkable as that to his 'Cantate e Duetti' (1721), for the large number of copies taken by individuals of rank. In England at that time everything was more or less political, and while Handel was supported by the Hanoverian King, Buononcini was taken up by the great houses of Rutland, Queensberry, Sunderland, and Marlborough. From