The Great German Composers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about The Great German Composers.
it violently at the leader of the band.  The effort sends his wig flying, and, rushing bareheaded to the footlights, he stands a few moments amid the roars of the house, snorting with rage and choking with passion.  Like Burleigh’s nod, Handel’s wig seemed to have been a sure guide to his temper.  When things went well, it had a certain complacent vibration; but when he was out of humor, the wig indicated the fact in a very positive way.  The Princess of Wales was wont to blame her ladies for talking instead of listening.  “Hush, hush!” she would say.  “Don’t you see Handel’s wig?”

For several years after the subscription of the nobility had been exhausted, our composer, having invested L10,000 of his own in the Haymarket, produced operas with remarkable affluence, some of them pasticcio works, composed of all sorts of airs, in which the singers could give their bravura songs.  These were “Lotario,” 1729; “Partenope,” 1730; “Poro,” 1731; “Ezio,” 1732; “Sosarme,” 1732; “Orlando,” 1733; “Ariadne,” 1734; and also several minor works.  Handel’s operatic career was not so much the outcome of his choice as dictated to him by the necessity of time and circumstance.  As time went on, his operas lost public interest.  The audiences dwindled, and the overflowing houses of his earlier experience were replaced by empty benches.  This, however, made little difference with Handel’s royal patrons.  The king and the Prince of Wales, with their respective households, made it an express point to show their deep interest in Handel’s success.  In illustration of this, an amusing anecdote is told of the Earl of Chesterfield.  During the performance of “Rinaldo” this nobleman, then an equerry of the king, was met quietly retiring from the theatre in the middle of the first act.  Surprise being expressed by a gentleman who met the earl, the latter said:  “I don’t wish to disturb his Majesty’s privacy.”

Handel paid his singers in those days what were regarded as enormous prices.  Senisino and Carestini had each twelve hundred pounds, and Cuzzoni two thousand, for the season.  Toward the end of what may be called the Handel season nearly all the singers and nobles forsook him, and supported Farinelli, the greatest singer living, at the rival house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.


From the year 1729 the career of Handel was to be a protracted battle, in which he was sometimes victorious, sometimes defeated, but always undaunted and animated with a lofty sense of his own superior power.  Let us take a view of some of the rival musicians with whom he came in contact.  Of all these Bononcini was the most formidable.  He came to England in 1720 with Ariosti, also a meritorious composer.  Factions soon began to form themselves around Handel and Bononcini, and a bitter struggle ensued between these old foes.  The same drama repeated itself, with new actors, about thirty years afterward, in Paris. 

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The Great German Composers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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