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George Frideric Handel was a defining figure of the late Baroque era, shaping its music for the theatre in much the same way J. S. Bach dominated the writing of music for use in church. Perhaps best known for bringing the oratorio form to an English-speaking audience with masterworks such as Messiah, Handel also had a distinguished career as a composer of Italian operas, and furthermore found time to influence the development of orchestral music by writing such works as the Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. Donald Burrows's new biography relates Handel's life and his music, devoting particular attention to two crucial junctures in Handel's development: his transition from a church-trained musician in Germany to a successful opera composer in London, and the gradual transformation of his theatre career from opera to oratorio, some thirty years later. In the oratorio form, as Burrows demonstrates, Handel was able to combine the techniques of large-scale construction and of aria writing that he had developed in his operas with an experience of choral music that went back to his earliest training as a church organist. The result was music that succeeds to this day in capturing the imagination of a vast audience. The last half-century has seen Handel take a major place in modern musical scholarship. This book takes into account not only recent knowledge of historical sources and significant studies of Handel's major works, but also research on Handel's "borrowing" practices, his habit of using the existing musical ideas of other composers as well as his own. Yet Handel remains unsurpassed as one of the greatest compositional architects in the history of Western music, with a sure instinct for both balance and originality in the final result. In this insightful study, Donald Burrows brings to life not only the glory of Handel's artistry, but also his sometimes elusive personality, and the flavor of the times and places in which he lived.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Can also serve as a reference tool for Handel and his works...Libraries with the earlier edition of this book would do well to replace it with this current edition." —Choice

"Burrows makes a valuable contribution towards restoring the balance...Burrows skillfully interweaves Handel's 'outward' biography with the 'inner' one of his creative life, linking the two aspects chronologically in irregularly alternating chapters. In this way the reader can conveniently use the book either as biography or as a commentary on the music...this is a considerable achievement. Burrows's study of Handel...provides us with a deeply informative and well-balanced composition."—BBC Music

"A welcome addition to what has already proved itself to be an excellent, authoritative series of musical biographies"—Classical Music

"This book, of Handelian solidity, is worth of its subject,...The Clarendon Press, as usual, have responded to a worthy book worthily; production, print, and musical calligraphy are exemplary, and the scholarly apparatus and appendices aare exhaustive but not exhausting."—The Oldie

"A properly balanced book, with due weight given to previously-neglected areas. It is particularly good to see Handel's English church music being given more attention. There is an immense amount of scholarship here, presented throughout the book in an accessible way ... an elegantly-produced hardback, it is outstandingly good value."—Peter Holman, The Musical Times

UNEDITED UK REVIEW: "Although precious few certain facts are known about Handel's pre-London career, this latest biography details them all in over 40 pages of well-reasoned narrative."—Classical Music

"...the best single-volume book on Handel...£25.00 is very good value for a work of this size, let alone excellence: it augers well for the new management."—Early Music review

"Not just a 'better' book, it is the best single-volume book on Handel ... The author has all the facts at his finger-tips, quotes extensively from the sources ... and makes sensible remarks on the music. There is a vast knowledge lying behind the book."—Clifford Bartlett, Early Music Review

"Mr. Burrows writes like a specialist ...exudes authority not only in what he puts forward but also in his prudent refusal to claim too much...[this book] will undoubtedly prove invaluable to serious students and useful as well to general readers."—The New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198166498
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Series: Master Musicians Series
  • Edition description: Subsequent
  • Pages: 520
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Burrows is a leading authority on the life and music of George Frideric Handel. His book Handel and the English Chapel Royal has been recognised as the first full-scale study of Handel's English church music. His published editions of Handel's music include the oratorios Messiah, Samson, and Belshazzar; the operas Imeneo and Ariodante; the complete violin sonatas; and the suite for two harpsichords.

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Table of Contents

1 Germany, 1685-1706
2 Italy and Hanover, 1706-10
3 Music for Germany and Italy, 1706-10
4 London: The first decade, 1711-19
5 The music, 1711-19
6 The 'Academy' years, 1720-32
7 The music of the 'Academy years
Other works
8 The transitional decade I: Competition, 1732-7
9 The transitional decade II: Confusion, 1737-41
10 The music, 1732-41
Oratorios and odes
Church music
Instrumental music
11 The oratorio composer 1: Dublin and London, 1741-5
12 The oratorio composer II: Towards victory, 1745-9
13 The music of the 1740s
Theatre music
Other works
14 The final decade I: The last major works, 1749-51
15 The final decade II: A career completed
A Calendar
B List of works
C Personalia
D The ruling houses of Hanover, Britain and Prussia
E A London Opera-goer in 1728
F Select bibliography

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