Narrative tones

G. F. Handel's life fugue

In Denmark we tend to regard Handel as a great religious composer whose status is essentially due to a single deeply felt religious masterpiece. But actually the Messiah is  composed for performance in a theater for a paying audience, just like the composer's numerous operas. And it is an exception in his output, a meditative biblical oratorio with no real action and no named protagonists. Throughout his life, Handel represented an entertainment industry funded by the social elite of the day; thus  as a cultural phenomenon in his day the Messiah is probably more reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar than of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. In England, where Parliament granted German-born Georg Friedrich Händel citizenship and he spent almost fifty years of his life, he can be seen compared to William Shakespeare. In that perspective, he is strangely absent in Danish music literature, hardly a single book about Handel's life and music was issued in Danish since his death more than 250 years ago. Handel wrote about forty Italian operas and more than a dozen theater oratorios with English text, in addition to dozens of dramatic cantatas, chamber plays, etc. As a narrative music storyteller, he is in a class of his own, and the title of the book hardly needs explanation.

Gyldendal 2019, 312 pages