Exhibition | Handel: A Life with Friends

Posted in books, exhibitions by Editor on April 27, 2015

From the Handel House Museum:

Handel: A Life with Friends
Handel House Museum, London, 1 July 2015 — 10 January 2016

Curated by Ellen Harris

Exhibition_Friends_fullWhat was it like to live next to the great composer Handel? Who would call at his house? Who did he visit? In this new exhibition, Handel scholar Ellen Harris will explore the composer’s domestic life at 25 Brook Street and the many friends and neighbours who visited him at the new, fashionable residential district called ‘May Fair’.

Handel’s music brought this disparate group of men and women together, as amateur performers in their own homes and as audiences at performances of his operas and oratorios. With important loans from national, local and private collections, the exhibition—inspired by Ellen Harris’s new book George Frideric Handel: A Life With Friends—will offer a rare glimpse into the public and private lives of some of Handel’s closest friends.

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From Norton:

Ellen T. Harris, George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends (New York: Norton, 2014), 496 pages, ISBN: 978-0393088953, $40.

George Frideric Handel Mechanical 4p_r2.inddAn intimate portrait of Handel’s life and inner circle, modeled after one of the composer’s favorite forms: the fugue.

During his lifetime, the sounds of Handel’s music reached from court to theater, echoed in cathedrals, and filled crowded taverns, but the man himself—known to most as the composer of Messiah—is a bit of a mystery. Though he took meticulous care of his musical manuscripts and even provided for their preservation on his death, very little of an intimate nature survives.

One document—Handel’s will—offers us a narrow window into his personal life. In it, he remembers not only family and close colleagues but also neighborhood friends. In search of the private man behind the public figure, Ellen Harris has spent years tracking down the letters, diaries, personal accounts, legal cases, and other documents connected to these bequests. The result is a tightly woven tapestry of London in the first half of the eighteenth century, one that interlaces vibrant descriptions of Handel’s music with stories of loyalty, cunning, and betrayal.

With this wholly new approach, Harris has achieved something greater than biography. Layering the interconnecting stories of Handel’s friends like the subjects and countersubjects of a fugue, Harris introduces us to an ambitious, shrewd, generous, brilliant, and flawed man, hiding in full view behind his public persona.

Ellen T. Harris is professor emeritus at MIT and has served on the music faculties of Columbia University and The University of Chicago. Her previous books include Handel as Orpheus: Voice and Desire in the Chamber Cantatas, and she has spoken at Lincoln Center and appeared on PBS NewsHour and BBC Radio 3. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts.


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