George Frideric Handel 1685 - 1759

Posted by Tory Historian Tuesday, April 14, 2009 ,

For reasons that will never be explained 2009 is a year of many anniversaries for important composers. One of the greatest, George Frideric Handel, is remembered today as April 14 marks the 250th anniversary of his death.

Somehow it seems appropriate that this celebration or remembrance should happen on the day after Easter Monday for one of Handel’s greatest works is, indisputably, his oratorio, Messiah, which produces new joys on each hearing.

In 1740 Handel, having suffered and, apparently, recovered from a stroke, Handel decided to give up opera management. He had lost a great deal of money on it. Instead he turned to writing oratorios, while continuing with other pieces of music.

Messiah was performed first in Dublin in 1742 (on April 13, as it happens). In 1750 there was a special performance in aid of the Foundling Hospital of which Handel remained a patron and what we would now call a fundraiser. Patrons who came to his annual concerts paid for the privilege and the money went to the charity.

Handel’s influence on the development of music can be discussed at length, though not by Tory Historian who is not qualified to do so. But some of the responses to the date are quite interesting.

Classic FM broadcast the complete oratorio yesterday evening, together with several other pieces of music, the whole programme introduced ably by John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. It was a splendidly inspiring ending to the Easter festivities.

Michael White, one of the ever proliferating Daily Telegraph bloggers has produced a clever-clever piece about why Handel is a goodish composer or maybe not and why we should stop paying attention to anniversaries. At least that is what he seems to be saying. Tory Historian finds clever dick journalist bloggers tiresome.

Both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent write about the crowds gathering near the place where the Messiah was first performed to celebrate the Handel anniversary. There is an official festival and, it seems a great deal of unofficial celebration. Perhaps Michael White should go to Dublin. Maybe not. He would curdle the milk.

But the best story, in Tory Historian’s opinion was produced by Peter Day on the BBC website. It would appear that Handel was not only a fine musician and genius as composer, he was also quite a smart financial operator, despite his lack of success with opera management. (But then, did anybody have any success with it?) Apparently, he even managed to get out of the South Sea Company well before it went bust causing a truly horrendous financial crisis, only to find his way back into the market three years later, after the Bank of England had backed the South Sea annuities. Read the whole story. It’s a lot of fun.

There is also an exhibition about Handel’s money-making abilities at the Bank of England. Tory Historian will probably visit it.

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