Page:Romain Rolland Handel.djvu/40

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32
GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL

religious scruples, had given up the writing of opera libretti, and no longer wished to compose anything but sacred works. Postel furnished Handel with the text for a Passion according to Saint John, which Handel set to music, and performed during Holy Week in 1704.[1] Mattheson, piqued at the volte face which had happened in his relationship with Handel, criticised the music severely, but not unjustly.[2] Despite the intense feeling of certain pages, and the fine dramatic nature of the choruses, the work was uneven, and occasionally lacked good taste.

From this moment the friendship between Handel and Mattheson was finished. Handel became conscious of his own genius, and could no longer stand the protectorship of Mattheson. Other occurrences aggravated the misunderstanding, which ended in a quarrel, which narrowly escaped a fatal issue.[3] Following the altercation at the Opera on

  1. In the same week, Keiser and the poet Hunold gave another Passion, The Bleeding and Dying Jesus, which made a scandal: for he had treated the subject in the manner of an opera, suppressing the chorales, the chief songs, and the person of the evangelist and his story. Handel and Postel more prudently only suppressed the songs, but reserved the text of the evangelist.
  2. This criticism, certainly written in 1704, was repeated by Mattheson in his musical journal, Critica Musica, in 1725, and even twenty years later on, in his Wollkommene Kapellmeister, in 1740.
  3. The two young men had charge of the education of the English Ambassador's son, Mattheson in the position of chief tutor, Handel as music master. Mattheson took advantage of the situation to inflict on Handel a humiliating rebuke. Handel revenged himself by ridiculing Mattheson, whose Cleopatra was being given at the Opera. Mattheson conducted the orchestra from the clavier, and took the rôle of Antony as well. When he played the part he left the clavier to Handel, but after Antony had died, an hour before the end of the play, Mattheson returned in theatrical costume to the clavier, so as not to miss the final ovations. Handel, who had submitted to this little comedy for the first two representations, refused on the third to give his chair to Mattheson. In the end they came to fisticuffs. The story is told in a rather confusing manner by Mattheson in his Ehrenpforte, and by Mainwaring, who sided with Handel.