Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/665

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
HANDEL.
653
 

concentration which enabled him actually to get through more work in a given time than is accomplished by ordinary men. Those original sketches of his works that are extant, while bearing in their penmanship the traces of impetuous speed, yet abound in erasures, corrections and afterthoughts, showing that he brought sound judgment and stern criticism to bear on his own creations.

In gratitude for the pension allowed him by the king after Handel's death, Smith, his amanuensis, to whom Handel had left his MSS., presented them all to George III. They remain still in the Musical Library of Buckingham Palace, and are as follows:—Operas, 32 vols.; Oratorios. 21 vols.; Odes and Serenatas, 7 vols.; Sacred Music, 12 vols.; Cantatas and Sketches, 11 vols.; and Instrumental Music, 5 vols. Beside these, there is a collection of copies by Smith (the elder), forming a continuation to the original MSS., in 17 vols. There is also a collection of copies, partly in the hand of Smith (the elder) and partly in another hand, chiefly of the Oratorios, in 24 vols. large folio, in the same Library.

Another, smaller collection of original MSS. is to be found in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, consisting of 7 vols. of the greatest interest, containing rough draughts, notes, and sketches for various works, and one of the Chandos Anthems, entire, 'Praise the Lord with one consent.'

Very few compositions in Handel's writing are in private collections.

The original MS. score of the work alluded to above as achieved in 24 days, the 'Messiah,'—the greatest, and also the most universally known of all Handel's oratorios,—has been facsimiled in photo-lithography, and so placed within the reach of all who may wish to become familiar with Handel's mode of working. Here it can be seen how much the work differed in its first form from what it finally became,—the work as we know it. Some alterations are of comparatively slight importance, such as the substitution of one kind of choral voice for another in the 'lead' of a fugue-subject,—the alteration of the form of a violin-figure, and so on. But in other cases there are actually two, and sometimes even three, different settings of the same words, showing that Handel himself failed occasionally in at once grasping the true realisation of his own conceptions. Among many instances of change of purpose which might be given, it will be sufficient to quote two. In the 'Nativity music' there are two settings of the words 'And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them,' the first of which is that now used, and the second an Andante in F major, which bears the traces of a good deal of labour, but which was finally rejected by the composer.

The second case is that of the air 'How beautiful are the feet,' and the subsequent chorus 'Their sound is gone out.' At first the air was written as it now stands, but afterwards its theme was taken as a duet in F minor for Alto voices (appendix), to which is added a chorus on the words, 'Break forth into joy,' after which the duet is resumed. As to 'Their sound is gone out,' these words were originally set as a second strophe to 'How beautiful are the feet' (in its first form as an air); they were then set as a tenor solo (appendix), which opens with the same theme as that of the chorus which afterwards took its place, and which was ultimately embodied in the work. We give a fac-simile of Handel's signature at the end of this MS.[1]

Page 665 (A Dictionary of Music and Musicians-Volume 1).jpg

His orchestration sounds, of course, scanty to modern ears. The balance of the orchestra was very different, in his time, from what it is now; some wind-instruments, such as the clarionet, not being yet in use, while others were then employed in greater numbers; and some stringed instruments were included that are now obsolete. The wind-instruments were certainly more prominent in the band than they now are; he used the hautbois freely, seeming to have a particular affection for them, and sometimes employed them in large numbers, as a 'wind-bund,' in 'The Fireworks Music,' etc. He made, in fact, abundant use of all the materials at his command, and, in his own day, was regarded as noisy and even sensational. He was said to sigh for a cannon (worthy, this, of Berlioz in later times); and there is extant a caricature of him, by Goupy, representing him at the organ, with a boar's head and enormous tusks (alluding to his passionate temper); the room is strewn with horns, trumpets, and kettle-drums; further off are visible a donkey braying, and a battery of artillery, which is fired by the blazing music of the organist![2] Mozart reinstrumented much of the 'Messiah,' to suit the more modern orchestra; and he, as well as Mendelssohn and other musicians, have written similar additional accompaniments to several of the other Oratorios and Cantatas. [See Additional Accompaniments.]

  1. The figure which immediately precedes the date is the old astrological or chemical sign for Saturn, denoting Saturday. Handel was in the frequent habit of introducing these signs into his dates.
  2. Cannons were used at the Crystal Palace, on one occasion, with no bad effect, and also at the Festival at Boston, U. S. On one occasion, Handel is said to have exclaimed, during the performance of one of his choruses, 'Oh that I had a cannon!' Sheridan, in an early burletta, 'Jupiter,' makes one of his characters say, when a pistol has been fired by way of effect, 'This hint I took from Handel' (Townsend).