Handel’s “Trionfo del Tempo”: Amanda Forsythe and Voices of Music

In the aria, Tu del Ciel ministro eletto (“You, elected minister of Heaven”), George Frideric Handel evokes the continuous flow of time, melting into eternity. This is the cosmic concluding aria from Trionfo del Tempo (“The Triumph of Time and Truth”), Handel’s first oratorio, written in the spring of 1707. It is one of only two oratorios Handel set in Italian. (The twenty-two year old composer was living in Rome at the time). …

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Handel’s Musical Depictions of Birdsong

Sweet bird, that shun’st the noise of folly, Most musical, most melancholy! Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among, I woo to hear thy even-song. Or, missing thee, I walk unseen, On the dry smooth-shaven green, To behold the wand’ring moon Riding near her highest noon. -John Milton, Il Penseroso  George Frideric Handel set these lines to music in his 1740 secular oratorio, L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (“The Cheerful, the Thoughtful, and the …

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Remembering Soprano Heather Harper

The British operatic soprano Heather Harper passed away on Monday at the age of 88. Born in Belfast, Harper came to international attention when she stepped in at ten days notice for the world premiere of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem at Coventry Cathedral in 1962. (Galina Vishnevskaya, for whom the part was written, was denied permission by Soviet authorities on the grounds that Britten’s work was too “political.”) Harper went on to perform …

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Handel’s “Water Music”: Akademie für alte Musik Berlin

Handel’s festive Water Music springs to life with an infectious sense of joy and celebration in this January, 2016 live performance featuring the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. This has to be some of the most enduring and magical party music ever written. As I outlined in a previous post, this collection of three Baroque dance suites was written for King George I’s pleasure excursion up the Thames River on the evening of July …

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An 18th Century Novelty: Music for Mechanical Organ Clock

On Wednesday, I pointed out the persistent “tick-tock” rhythm of the second movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 101- a detail which earned the piece the nickname, The “Clock” Symphony. That got me thinking about the small collection of music, written by Haydn and other composers, for the mechanical organ clock, a popular eighteenth century luxury item which combined a clock with a small, mechanized organ. It’s a device which epitomized the scientific rationality of …

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Joyce DiDonato’s “In War and Peace”

In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace? This is the question American lyric-coloratura mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato asks with her newest album, prompted by the November 2015 Paris attacks. In War and Peace is a collection of baroque opera and oratorio arias by composers such as Handel, Purcell, and Monteverdi. The album just won a 2017 Gramophone Award. In a Gramophone Magazine interview, DiDonato said, I don’t need to represent reality in this project. …

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Handel’s “Water Music” Turns 300

Today marks the three-hundredth anniversary of the premiere of Handel’s Water Music. The collection of festive orchestral dance movements, published in three suites, was written for King George I’s pleasure excursion up the Thames River on the evening of July 17, 1717. The elaborate summer boating party was intended to lift the King’s flagging poll numbers. As an incoming tide swept the aristocratic party upriver towards Chelsea, around 50 musicians performed on a separate …

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