Page:Romain Rolland Handel.djvu/138
GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL
Alexander Balus, Jephtha, all present recitative scenes, or combinations in the same scene of recitatives and very free airs, with instrumental interludes, no less original. Finally a sort of presentiment of the leit-motiv, and its psychological employment in Belshazzar, should be noticed, where certain instrumental phrases and recitatives seem attached to the character of Nitocris.
The study of Handel's recitatives and airs raises perhaps the greatest problem of artistic interpretation—that of vocal ornamentation.
We know that Handelian singers used to decorate his melodies with graces and melismatic figures, and cadenzas (often very considerable) which have disappeared for the greater part. Chrysander, in
- It is necessary to consider to some extent the Arias buffi. Some have denied Handel the gift of humour. They cannot know him well. He is full of humour, and often expresses it in his works. In his first opera, Almira, the rôle of Tabarco is in the comic style of Keiser and of Telemann. It is the same feeling which gives certain traits a little caricaturesque to the rôle of St. Peter in the Passion after Brockes. The Polyphemus in Acis and Galatea has a fine amplitude of rough buffoonery. But in Agrippina Handel derived his subtle irony from Italy; and the light style with its minute touches and its jerky rhythms from Vinci and Pergolesi (to the letter) appear with Handel in Teseo (1713). Radamisto, Rodelinda, Alessandro, Tolomeo, Partenope, Orlando, Atalanta afford numerous examples. The scene where Alexander and Roxane are asleep (or pretend to be) is a little scene of musical comedy. Serse and Deidamia are like tragicomedies, the action of which points to opéra comique. But his gift of humour takes another turn in his oratorios, where Handel not only creates complex and colossal types, such as Delilah or Haraphah in Samson, or as the two old men in Susanna, but where his Olympian laugh breaks out in the choruses of L' Allegro, shaking the sides of the audience with irresistible laughter.