Stanley Sadie Lecture: Handel and his Performers
Professor Peter Holman MBE, Reader in Historical Musicology at Leeds University.
Professor Peter Holman will deliver this year’s lecture in memory of Stanley Sadie,
the founder of Handel House. The evening will start with a drinks reception and a chance to look around the house.
“I am Beelzebub, Chief of the Devils”: Handel and his Performers
“In the course of research for my forthcoming book Before the Baton: Musical Direction and Conducting in Stuart and Georgian Britain I have reconsidered the many anecdotes about Handel’s dealings with his performers. The one that provides the title for this talk comes from a story told by John Mainwaring (Handel’s first biographer) about an encounter with the soprano Francesca Cuzzoni. It is typical in that it shows him concerned to exert control over even famous singers, maintaining ‘a perfect authority over all his singers and instrumentalists’. Handel was apparently unusually exacting in rehearsals, even reportedly reducing one of his leaders, Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli, to tears, but he did not exercise control in performance as modern conductors do. He apparently conformed to the norms of his day by directing large-scale choral music by simple vertical movements with a roll of paper, and by directing operas by leading the first continuo group from the harpsichord. I will describe the problems Handel encountered trying to find the best method of directing his English oratorios, which combined the idioms of choral music and opera. He eventually settled on directing them from a harpsichord connected by a ‘long movement’ to a large organ, which allowed him to communicate with his singers aurally rather than visually by doubling their parts in choruses; they were all placed out of his sight at the front of the performing area.” Peter Holman
6.30-7pm: drinks reception
Tickets: Free but booking essential
When: 6th Mar 2019 at 18:30