Christopher Webber responds to George Marshall:
>>But I guess my problem with Handel is mine not his, though it's quite
>>a comfort to learn that Berlioz appears to have had a similar problem.
>In the opposing camp we can count Mozart, and Beethoven who famously
>said that Handel was the greatest composer that ever lived: "I would
>uncover my head, and kneel before his tomb". Handel was of course a
>major influence on the operatic and choral music of both composers,
>whilst Beethoven's late preoccupation with fugue arose from his intense
>study of Handel's long, sectional fugato themes and unconventional
>development of them: for Handel, as for Beethoven, fugue was a servant
>rather than a master.
>To come back to the operas, George has clearly led himself to the water
>on numerous occasions! What can I suggest....
I forget George's post, so my comments will be brief and may be redundant.
I love Handel and have a pretty large collection of operas and oratorios.
By a large measure, I prefer the oratorios and can somewhat understand
the original writer's points. That is not to say I don't like the
operas--otherwise I wouldn't have so many of them on disc, just that I
prefer the oratorios.
Now, I'll dig my hole. One reason I am not as drawn to the operas is
that as the years go on, I am increasingly put off by HIP performances.
I'm not about to get into all kinds of musicological points, but I'd be
less than honest if I said anything else. I was an avid fan when HIP
started back in the days of Noah Greenberg (I think that was the name)
and Harnoncourt, but my enthusiasm has faded considerably over the years.
I still like those Harnoncourts, I think because of the energy and
enthusiasm in his performances. Alas, so many other HIP performances,
for all their correctness, seem dry, sometimes shrill, and .... well,
correct. And boring. At least to me. Now I can listen to HIP with the
oratorios if its done well, but the operas, so much smaller in scale in
many cases, are another matter, for HIP makes them seem smaller. True,
there are good HIP Handel opera recordings out there, but I find it
harder to cherry pick among the vast selection to find them. I wish
this weren't so. I wish there were recordings with HIP and modern
instrument groups. Give us a choice. Right now there is no choice--the
HIPers have simply pushed everyone else out, and for me that takes many
of the operas away.
Now that I've vented, there is one additional suggestion I'd make to
George. I may be all wet, but it's worth a try.
Find the recording of Ariodante on Philips conducted by Raymond Leppard.
It was originally on LP, with very good sound. If you don't like that,
and Christopher's suggestions don't work, maybe Handel opera is not for
you--at least not now.
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