For the first 150 years after Handel’s death, writes Ivan Hewett in Saturday’s (4/11) Daily Telegraph (London), the composer was revered, but by now the anti-Handel backlash has almost become clichéd: “that Handel was a self-plagiarist, that he was commercial, and—most shocking of all—that he wasn’t J. S. Bach. Bach was very ‘spiritual’, you see, whereas Handel was a mercenary fellow who recycled his old tunes to churn out smash-hit operas and oratorios at top speed. … Handel forswore the safety of a court or church post to keep his creative independence. But to make this independence real he had to shoulder the difficult task of appearing to give the public what it wanted, while following his own star. … The mysterious simplicity of Handel, his marrying of sensuousness and the spiritual, the way he transfigures ordinary emotions and limns them with something eternal; these are things that make him great.” Hewett previews several British Handel tributes, including on BBC Radio 3, at the London Handel Festival, and at the Royal Opera.

Posted April 13, 2009