Bert Bailey writes:
>I'm not sure if you're saying that Bach doesn't stand as the key figure
>Kundera makes him out to be, or that he is historically pivotal but
>Handel stands alongside him in that awakening of music from times past.
I was saying that rediscovery of the musical past (through Bach) wasn't
quite the big deal that Kundera makes out, because Handel's reputation
had never gone away in the first place, and he represents a rather
different composing ethos.
Two quotes on Handel from Beethoven:
(1) "When he chooses, he strikes like thunder"
(2) "Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived.
I would bare my head and kneel at his grave" (1824)
Mozart re-orchestrated some major Handel scores, including "Acis and
Galatea", "The Messiah", "Ode for Saint Cecilia's Day" and "Alexander's
Feast"; and though I can't lay my hands on a direct quotation (maybe
somebody can) he too regarded Handel as the standard at which to aim.
Handel's musico-dramatic influence is specially patent in his operas,
especially "Idomeneo" and the late "La Clemenza di Tito".
Haydn likewise displays close knowledge of Handel's work, not least in
his own oratorios.
Significantly, when Mozart made his versions critical voices were raised
against changing the original orchestrations to suit "modern" tastes.
In other words, the antiquarian sense of old music as something demanding
respect and historical perspective was already in place, even before
Mendelssohn's Bach revivals.
>As far as recordings go, my feeling is that circumstances have
>been in flux over the past decade with the waning of the larger and
>rising of the smaller labels (including Naxos), and changing favourably
>for the contemporary composers.
Heartily agreed. The commissioning by Naxos of a series of 10(!) string
quartets from Maxwell Davies is another sign of the renewed confidence
and faith in and from composers - even those who now, I suppose, pass
for the "old guard"!
(I was referring to Louis Andriessen, whose music understandably draws
packed and enthusiastic houses throughout Europe at least. I don't know
how popular he is in the USA, although he's had several small commissions
from that side of the water.)
Christopher Webber, Blackheath, London, UK
"ZARZUELA!" The Spanish Music Site