Showcase December 2014 - page 27

12, 13
Program Notes
immediately, taking one of the packet boats that ran
regularly from Chester to Ireland.
Handel’s arrival in Dublin—on November 18, 1741—was
very much like Haydn’s would be in London precisely 50
years later. Both composers journeyed to a foreign land
and discovered that they were famous. Both were feted,
delighted by the quality of the performers and acclaimed
by enthusiastic crowds in jammed halls. Just as Haydn
would later do in London, Handel began his Dublin
residency by performing earlier works, including
Acis and Galatea
Alexander’s Feast
. Not until
he had been in Dublin for five months did Handel present
his new oratorio: he led an open rehearsal of
April 9, 1742, and the official premiere followed four days
later, on April 13.
success in ireland
It was a stunning success, and Dubliners struggled to
get tickets. Neal’s Musick Hall, where the premiere took
place, had room for only 600, and so management came
up with a shrewd solution. The day of the performance,
Faulkner’s Dublin Journal
carried this admonition: “The
Stewards of the Charitable Musical Society request the
Favour of the Ladies not to come with Hoops this Day to
the Musick-Hall in Fishamble-Street: the Gentlemen are
desired to come without their swords.” Thus slimmed
down, 700 listeners were crammed into the hall, and
the performance turned the handsome profit of 400
pounds for Mercer’s Hospital, the Charitable Infirmary
and the Charitable Music Society (for the relief of those
imprisoned for debt). A second performance of
on June 13, was equally successful, and Handel left
Ireland in August, eager to repeat that success in London.
It must have come as the worst possible surprise to
the composer when the oratorio failed at its London
premiere on March 23, 1743. Perhaps he should have
seen it coming. That performance was preceded by a
furor in the newspapers about his decision to present an
oratorio on Biblical texts in a public theater, and Handel’s
performance was attacked as “blasphemous.” A few
subsequent performances had scarcely more success, and
it was not until May 1, 1750, when Handel led
as a benefit for the opening of the Hospital Chapel of the
Foundling Hospital, his favorite charity, that the oratorio
finally won favor.
By the time Handel died nine years later, in April 1759,
had been performed 56 times in London and was
on its way to achieving the status it enjoys today, that of a
beloved icon.
nativity, crucifixion, resurrection
was originally composed for the Easter season,
George Frideric Handel
February 23, 1685, Halle
April 14, 1759, London
y the spring of 1741 Handel’s 30-year effort to make
a success of Italian opera in London had come to a
shuddering conclusion. He finally had to admit failure,
and rumors circulated in London that he was about to
leave England and return to Germany.
Relief came from an unlikely source. The Duke of
Devonshire, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, invited Handel to
Dublin to put on a series of concerts in support of various
local charities. For Handel, Ireland was literally new
territory, and he was glad to accept the invitation, get
away from London for a while and seek new audiences.
In addition to gathering earlier works for performance
there, that summer he began work on a new oratorio that
would have its premiere in Dublin.
at breakneck speed
This oratorio represented a new direction for Handel,
who by no means considered himself a composer of
sacred music. It was on a text assembled from the Bible
and the Prayer Book Psalter by his longtime friend
Charles Jennens. Handel worked with unbelievable
speed: from the time he sat down in front of a blank sheet
of paper until the completion of the full orchestral score
, just 24 days had elapsed—from August 22
to September 14. He then pressed on with his oratorio
, completing it by late October, and left almost
In 1742, when
premieres in Dublin:
• Britain’s Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, resigns amid an election
fraud scandal
• Benjamin Franklin invents the Franklin Stove, enabling American
colonists to heat their homes with less wood
• London’s first indoor swimming pool opens—for “Gentlemen” only
• Card-game pioneer Edmond Hoyle publishes A Short Treatise on the
Game of Whist
at the same time...
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