Thursday, January 26, 2012

Handel and Wimbledon - The Eternal Fluidity of History's Physiognomy ...

Is there a subject learned and taught by Man that is more vulnerable to the cosmic dust of change, outside perhaps, astronomy, than history itself?
Take, for instance. a series of lectures done at St. Mary's in Wimbledon, at the Wimbledon Village Club, done during the winter months of 1863, 64:
The Club was created for members of the middle class, with a reading room holding some 600 volumes, newspapers and various periodicals. Lectures were regularly held in this building, and the lectures during that particular winter centered around great composers. The two that interested me were on Handel and Beethoven. Of the two, the lecture on Beethoven pretty well held onto what we know about that giant; however, the talk on Handel contained some rather piquant examples of perplexity; such as, "Mozart rendered up his soul at age 39." Well, do the math - the dates we have for Mozart are 1756 - 1791. Or; Handel was born, according to the lecturer, on February 24 of 1684. Seems to me that 1685 was a very good year, as it yielded to Humanity Bach, Scarlatti - and Handel.
What beguiled me even more was the particular station that Handel held in England at this point in time; for instance, "no one, without exception, neither Mozart nor Beethoven, has ever risen to the grandeur of the Ideal than did Handel."
Wonder where Bach comes in? Thanks be to Mendelssohn for promulgating the Bach cult in 1829, a cult which persists to this day. I hasten to point out that I am most assuredly not 'anti-Handel.' Handel unquestionably is one of a handful of giants in the world of great composers, and I have written about his influence upon us in previous blogs. As I had written in one of my blogs some time ago, Beethoven himself considered Handel as "the greatest of them all."
But most composers in our time continue to consider Bach as the most pervasively powerful musical thinker of the past three centuries.
Do keep in mind that we are in England as we read this, knowing that the foreigner from Germany called Handel is buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, along with Shakespeare and Milton.
Toward the end of his lecture, the lecturer at St. Mary's in Wimbledon remarks that " no man need ever to expect to rival his (Handel's) genius, or to approach his power of expression."
And at this time, Bach was known more by his congregation and the surrounding communities, but not much more.

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