Exhibition | Charles Jennens: The Man behind Handel’s ‘Messiah’

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 29, 2013

From The Handel House Museum:

Charles Jennens: The Man behind Handel’s Messiah
The Handel House Museum, London, 21 November 2012 — 14 April 2013

Curated by Ruth Smith

coverIn a major new exhibition the Handel House Museum explores the life, work and character of Handel’s great collaborator Charles Jennens.

An enigmatic character, Jennens had an enormous influence on Handel’s life and work. As librettist for the oratorios Saul and Belshazzar, he provided the composer with words that inspired some of his most challenging and exciting music. His carefully chosen scripture selection for Messiah was to inspire Handel to even greater creative heights, and together these two men created one of the greatest musical works of all time.

The exhibition examines this relationship in detail, alongside other elements of Jennens’s life as a great landowner; the builder of a fine country house with extensive grounds; a major art collector; a Christian philanthropist; a devout defender of revealed religion; an encourager of other authors and composers; a loyal friend; and a forward-looking editor of Shakespeare.

Bringing together exhibits from throughout the UK and beyond, for the first time this landmark exhibition unites all known oil portraits of Jennens to stand beside Handel House’s own magnificent portrait by Thomas Hudson.

The exhibition’s curator is Dr Ruth Smith, author of Handel’s Oratorios and Eighteenth-Century Thought (Cambridge University Press), who has made a particular study of the life and work of Charles Jennens.

Ruth Smith, Charles Jennens: The Man behind Handel’s Messiah (London: Gerald Coke Handel Foundation, 2012), 71 pages, ISBN: 978-0956099822, £8.50.

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Jonathan Keates provides a review for the TLS (11 January 2013):

. . . Unfolding the mystery of Charles Jennens for us, this fine new exhibition, which also has a related walking tour and a series of talks and concerts, is the best so far within the Handel House’s limited space; it was mounted under the guidance of Ruth Smith, whose illuminating survey of his achievement accompanies the show. Besides evoking our admiration for him as aesthete, connoisseur, charitable patron, landscape gardener or devoted friend, she celebrates his work as the earliest variorum editor of Shakespeare’s plays. . . .

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