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Thread: How to "See the Light" with Handel

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    Senior Member Leporello87's Avatar
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    Default How to "See the Light" with Handel

    I know that we have a couple in-house Handel experts on this form, and I'm sure many others on here that enjoy his music. So I was hoping that you could help.

    I would not say that I've listened to Handel extensively, but definitely a fair amount, including many of his organ concerti, well-known works such as Judas Maccabeus, Messiah, Rodelinda, and portions of other works. I also played a number of his keyboard works when I was younger. However, no matter what I do to try, I can't seem to get into him, as much as J.S. Bach. For me, Bach is wonderful for his flawlessly flowing counterpoint and for the way his music evokes a sense of timelessness. Although obviously working in a Baroque context, many of his finest works seem to go beyond these confines into completely different universes.

    I do not get this feeling in Handel. I enjoy some of his works, but on some level they don't speak to me nearly as deeply as Bach. Of the major, famous composers, Handel is probably the one I think about least. (Personal anecdote, at the risk of maddening forum members Handel, Rod Corkin, and others: many months ago my iPod crashed and I had to put all my music back onto it. In fact, several months went by before I even noticed that I had neglected to put any Handel works back on it!)

    However, Beethoven saw him as one of the finest composers to have ever lived. So, obviously, I'm missing something here. Does anyone know what that could be?

    Are there fantastic pieces (in any genre) that I should be investigating immediately? For any die-hard lovers of Handel's work, what specific aspects do you find so lovely, wonderful, enthralling, etc? What wonders and delights should I be looking for? How do you recommend listening to Handel in a way that will unearth his treasures? Perhaps I am destined to be in the J.S. Bach camp, but I'd like to my very best to try to find the magic of Handel.

    Thanks for your help.

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    Senior Member Handel's Avatar
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    Funny, because I think I have the same reasoning (but replace Handel for Bach)

    Composers did not see the same thing in Handel's music.

    Mozart liked his theatrical composition (the Affects and Effects). Handel was the Mozart of Baroque era (in vocal field)
    Haydn liked the might (not the pomp, but the pure might) throughout his music.
    Beethoven liked how Handel expressed the most intense and complex motives with simple means.

    Maybe your problem is you look for in Handel what you like in Bach.
    You could listen to some oratorios like Israel in Egypt, Solomon, Saul. Works like Dixit Dominus and Acis & Galatea too.
    At first, I discovered the wonders of classical music through the marvels of its baroque period and especially those from Mr. Handel, which explain my forum nickname. About 10 years ago, my interest leaned over classical period and Herr Haydn's production. The music bus recently drove me to the early 1800s. Where will it end?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leporello87 View Post
    I know that we have a couple in-house Handel experts on this form, and I'm sure many others on here that enjoy his music. So I was hoping that you could help.

    I would not say that I've listened to Handel extensively, but definitely a fair amount, including many of his organ concerti, well-known works such as Judas Maccabeus, Messiah, Rodelinda, and portions of other works. I also played a number of his keyboard works when I was younger. However, no matter what I do to try, I can't seem to get into him, as much as J.S. Bach. For me, Bach is wonderful for his flawlessly flowing counterpoint and for the way his music evokes a sense of timelessness. Although obviously working in a Baroque context, many of his finest works seem to go beyond these confines into completely different universes.

    I do not get this feeling in Handel. I enjoy some of his works, but on some level they don't speak to me nearly as deeply as Bach. Of the major, famous composers, Handel is probably the one I think about least. (Personal anecdote, at the risk of maddening forum members Handel, Rod Corkin, and others: many months ago my iPod crashed and I had to put all my music back onto it. In fact, several months went by before I even noticed that I had neglected to put any Handel works back on it!)

    However, Beethoven saw him as one of the finest composers to have ever lived. So, obviously, I'm missing something here. Does anyone know what that could be?

    Are there fantastic pieces (in any genre) that I should be investigating immediately? For any die-hard lovers of Handel's work, what specific aspects do you find so lovely, wonderful, enthralling, etc? What wonders and delights should I be looking for? How do you recommend listening to Handel in a way that will unearth his treasures? Perhaps I am destined to be in the J.S. Bach camp, but I'd like to my very best to try to find the magic of Handel.

    Thanks for your help.
    I feel the 'depth' in Bach is surface level, whereas the depth in Handel is more multi-dimentional, as it is with Beethoven. But there has been a big problem with Handel - the fact that they forgot how to perform him until the end of the 20th Century. I mentioned here that Handel's favourite and most profound oratorio, Theodora, didn't even have a performing edition of the score until 1985. Then there is the matter of performance - the instruments, the technique, all were lost.

    I believe the dramatic and dynamic nature in particular of Handel means these factors are more pertinent to Handel than they are for Bach, who's efforts seem to have near enough the same effect mo matter how they performed or with what instruments. To a degree I would say the same in relation to Beethoven and Mozart. That is, paradoxically, producing a good Beethoven sound is more dependent on understanding the old methods and instruments than it is with the earlier composer.

    But back to Handel, it's really a matter of getting the right recordings, which I have, then you'll be seduced. 10 years ago I had no interest in Handel at all, now I think he is up there with Beethoven. For starters I suggest you look for the DVD of Theodora performed by Christie the OAE at Glyndebourne. If this doesn't blow you away I'll give you your money back.

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    Senior Member Saturnus's Avatar
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    I seem to be the only one here who admires the work of those two late-baroque composers equally.

    On the emotional level Händel is clearly superior, his music sings much more than Bach's, who is superior to Händel in counterpoint and the more mathematical side of music. Learn to appreciate singing and you will appreciate Händel. I would recommend to you the Cantata? (I don't know what form it really is but the instruments suggest cantata) Dixit Dominus. He wrote it when in his early twenties and I believe it contains a lot of "Bachian" quality but is clearly Händel at his best.

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    Senior Member Handel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saturnus View Post
    I seem to be the only one here who admires the work of those two late-baroque composers equally.

    On the emotional level Händel is clearly superior, his music sings much more than Bach's, who is superior to Händel in counterpoint and the more mathematical side of music. Learn to appreciate singing and you will appreciate Händel. I would recommend to you the Cantata? (I don't know what form it really is but the instruments suggest cantata) Dixit Dominus. He wrote it when in his early twenties and I believe it contains a lot of "Bachian" quality but is clearly Händel at his best.
    Dixit Dominus in indeed one of his masterpieces.

    Both the extreme chorus (beginning and end) are marvellous (I also especially like the "Tu es sacerdos").

    Tu es sacerdos (mp3) : http://www.box.net/shared/e69e33mtby

    The "De Torrente" aria is great too.
    At first, I discovered the wonders of classical music through the marvels of its baroque period and especially those from Mr. Handel, which explain my forum nickname. About 10 years ago, my interest leaned over classical period and Herr Haydn's production. The music bus recently drove me to the early 1800s. Where will it end?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Handel View Post
    Dixit Dominus in indeed one of his masterpieces.

    Both the extreme chorus (beginning and end) are marvellous (I also especially like the "Tu es sacerdos").

    Tu es sacerdos (mp3) : http://www.box.net/shared/e69e33mtby

    The "De Torrente" aria is great too.
    The best recording of Dixit Dominus is on the 'Handel Carmelite Vespers' CD by Parrot and the Taverner Choir and Orchestra. This is just fantastic.

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    Senior Member Handel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    The best recording of Dixit Dominus is on the 'Handel Carmelite Vespers' CD by Parrot and the Taverner Choir and Orchestra. This is just fantastic.
    The excerpt I put is from this CD. Great recording indeed.
    At first, I discovered the wonders of classical music through the marvels of its baroque period and especially those from Mr. Handel, which explain my forum nickname. About 10 years ago, my interest leaned over classical period and Herr Haydn's production. The music bus recently drove me to the early 1800s. Where will it end?

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    Senior Member Handel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    The best recording of Dixit Dominus is on the 'Handel Carmelite Vespers' CD by Parrot and the Taverner Choir and Orchestra. This is just fantastic.
    I'm sure you know it Rod, but there is good Handel site on the web. www.gfhandel.org.
    At least, the best dedicated to Handel. Unfortunately, since a few years, there is a decrease of its activity (cf. news section).
    At first, I discovered the wonders of classical music through the marvels of its baroque period and especially those from Mr. Handel, which explain my forum nickname. About 10 years ago, my interest leaned over classical period and Herr Haydn's production. The music bus recently drove me to the early 1800s. Where will it end?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Handel View Post
    I'm sure you know it Rod, but there is good Handel site on the web. www.gfhandel.org.
    At least, the best dedicated to Handel. Unfortunately, since a few years, there is a decrease of its activity (cf. news section).
    Yes I know this site well, I have it bookmarked.

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    Senior Member Leporello87's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for your input. Thanks also to Handel for putting up the "Tu es sacerdos", that was very nice. Lots of interesting stuff here. A couple responses:

    On the emotional level Händel is clearly superior, his music sings much more than Bach's, who is superior to Händel in counterpoint and the more mathematical side of music. Learn to appreciate singing and you will appreciate Händel.
    I find the differing views fascinating. The statement made here is not nearly as clear to me as it is to you. Although I certainly can't deny the mathematical side of Bach (which I love, but then again, I also love mathematics), I have to say that I completely disagree with what's become a common assessment of Bach, which is that it is lacking in terms of emotion. Perhaps this view is in part due to some not stellar or fearful performance, but I find a great deal of Bach's music to be extremely poignant and emotional. The comment about singing is also very interesting, because even in the contrapuntal context, many of the individual lines in Bach fugues definitely do "sing." I do not feel that I lack appreciation of vocal music or singing, and I enjoy all sorts of vocal music, operatic and choral. I definitely do not think music has to be contrapuntal to be substantial, but even so, I find that the Handel I've listened to often does not tug at my heart strings in even the manner that many works of Bach can. It sounds like I might be in the minority here though.

    I feel the 'depth' in Bach is surface level, whereas the depth in Handel is more multi-dimentional, as it is with Beethoven.
    Really? I think I feel the exact opposite. Not with respect to Beethoven -- I certainly agree with you there -- but to my taste, I find a great deal of Bach's music to be deeper than Handel's, but perhaps this is due to the fact that I have studied Bach's music a great deal more than Handel's.

    Perhaps this is a matter of listening to more of the right music, or perhaps just finding more works than I have to date. I've listened to parts of Israel in Egypt and Dixit Dominus. Not anything of Theodora, though. I will definitely look more into all of these.

    Also, are there recommendations for excellent music of Handel that is purely instrumental? As I said in the original post, I am familiar with some of his keyboard works that I've played, as well as with some of the organ concerti and concerti grossi, but it'd be great to discover more. Thanks again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leporello87 View Post

    Also, are there recommendations for excellent music of Handel that is purely instrumental? As I said in the original post, I am familiar with some of his keyboard works that I've played, as well as with some of the organ concerti and concerti grossi, but it'd be great to discover more. Thanks again.

    Of course you also have the water and fireworks music!

    Handel's concerti grossi Op3 and Op6 are the best you will find of this genre, the latter especially. Hear the recording of op6 by Hogwood and the Haydn & Handel Society, you will understand what I mean about Handel's depth. Minkowski's is the best recording of Op3. Concerning chamber music I would highlight his op2 trio sonatas, also the recorder sonatas, of which there are some brilliant recordings made in recent years. If you need some samplers I can upload them and put some links here.

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    Senior Member Leporello87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    Of course you also have the water and fireworks music!
    Haha, yes, I do. Sorry I neglected to mention this

    Handel's concerti grossi Op3 and Op6 are the best you will find of this genre, the latter especially. Hear the recording of op6 by Hogwood and the Haydn & Handel Society, you will understand what I mean about Handel's depth. Minkowski's is the best recording of Op3. Concerning chamber music I would highlight his op2 trio sonatas, also the recorder sonatas, of which there are some brilliant recordings made in recent years. If you need some samplers I can upload them and put some links here.
    I don't own the concerti grossi, and I've heard more of Op. 3 than Op. 6, a situation which it sounds like I should correct.

    I don't believe I know the trio sonatas or recorder sonatas. What is a brilliant recording I should look into? Thanks for your recommendations on recordings for the concerti.

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    Here is a free sample for you from Handel's ode L'Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato. The duet 'As steals the morn'. From Gardiner's recording on Erato - a rare Handel success from him. A brief glimpse of Heaven....

    http://files-upload.com/281478/33_L_...Part3.wma.html
    Last edited by Rod Corkin; Jun-08-2007 at 12:11.

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    Senior Member Handel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    Here is a free sample for you from Handel's ode L'Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato. The duet 'As steals the morn'. From Gardiner's recording on Erato - a rare Handel success from him. A brief glimpse of Heaven....

    http://files-upload.com/281478/33_L_...Part3.wma.html
    Didn't know that duet. First rate music.

    Rod, could you bring up the aria of "But Oh! Sad Virgin, That Thy Power" from the Allegro's. The beginning is so great

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/music/wma-p...890454-1861602
    Last edited by Handel; Jun-08-2007 at 15:46.
    At first, I discovered the wonders of classical music through the marvels of its baroque period and especially those from Mr. Handel, which explain my forum nickname. About 10 years ago, my interest leaned over classical period and Herr Haydn's production. The music bus recently drove me to the early 1800s. Where will it end?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Handel View Post
    Didn't know that duet. First rate music.

    Rod, could you bring up the aria of "But Oh! Sad Virgin, That Thy Power" from the Allegro's. The beginning is so great

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/music/wma-p...890454-1861602
    I wish I could but Gardiner, presumably, thought the air not worthy of being included in his recording (and people wonder why I am so anti-establishment!). Gardiner's old Handel recordings are littered with huge cuts that would never be dreamed of these days.

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