A Christamas Toast: To Handel

Posted in books, exhibitions by Editor on December 22, 2009

Ed. by Donald Burrows and Rosemary Dunhill (Oxford University Press, 2002)

‘I was much pleased this year with our exhibitions, and though I fear we shall never overtake Italy, ‘tis some praise that we begin to think, that, both in painting and in music, tis worth following’.
–James Harris in Salisbury to William Hamilton in Naples, 15 September 1774 (BL Add MS 42069, folios 94-5)

I’m not sure about the specific items included in the exhibition now on display at the Handel House Museum in London, but the book detailing the Harris collection of manuscripts is certainly fascinating. In assessing the volume for the English Historical Review 118 (April 2003): 446-48, William Weber suggests that

the letters and diaries of James Harris, his family and friends, between 1732 and 1780 take us close into the life of England’s elites, from theatres and assembly rooms in Salisbury, to concerts at Almack’s or the King’s Theatre in Westminster, and to court life in Spain, Germany, and Poland as seen through a diplomat’s eyes. Browsing through the 1068 pages of carefully annotated documents instils a highly nuanced sense of how such
people lived, and what music meant to them.

Handel House Museum, 25 Brook Street (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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From the museum’s website:

Mr Handel’s Friends
Handel House Museum, London, 10 November 2009 — 28 February 2010

Curated by Donald Burrows and Rosemary Dunhill

Handel had many friends and admirers in London who collected, played and promoted his music, entertained him in their homes, and supported him in difficult times. Through the private letters and diaries of the Harris family this exhibition explores these relationships and shows the many sides of the famous composer’s character and fortunes.

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And if the holiday season has the Messiah running through your head, then you might enjoy Jonathan Kandell’s profile in The Smithsonian Magazine. In
the eighteenth century, the oratorio wasn’t tied to Christmas but was a feature
of the annual concerts held to benefit the Foundling Hospital (another
outstanding small museum in London). 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of
Handel’s death.

–Craig Hanson

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