Thursday, 13 July 2017 00:00

Famous Composers: George Frideric Handel

GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685 - 1759), his own final choice of spelling, was born at Halle on 23rd February 1685; his father was a doctor (a ‘barber-surgeon’) and his mother, Dorothea nee Taust, the daughter of a Protestant priest. One is at liberty to shrug aside the romantic legend of a curly-headed six year-old being discovered late at night divinely playing the harpsichord by moonlight in a cold attic, but the fact remains that Handel was a child prodigy. His natural instincts were encouraged by his aunt Anna Taust rather than by his parents, but eventually his father consented to music lessons and even allowed him, at the age of eleven, to go by himself to Berlin (a week’s journey in those days) in order to attend the unconventional court of Electress Sophia Charlotte, to whom music was all that mattered.

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Friday, 19 May 2017 18:43

Famous Composers: Antonio Vivaldi

During the late seventeenth century and the early eighteenth Italy was not only the land of opera but also the land of the violin, an instrument whose potentialities were developed to a hitherto undreamt-of degree by such exponents as Corelli (whose name was closely associated with the School of Rome), Torelli (Bologna), Vivaldi (Venice), Somis (Turin) and Tardni (Padua). As well as playing the violin they composed plenty of music for it: Vivaldi’s lay neglected for a century or so after his death, but began to attract attention when in 1829, during the revival of interest in J. S. Bach largely stimulated by Mendelssohn, it was found that the great man had based an organ piece upon one of Vivaldi’s concertos. Presently many other ‘lost’ works were rediscovered, and over the years they have been played with increasing frequency.

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Wednesday, 08 February 2017 00:00

Famous Composers: Henry Purcell

The sixteenth century was extraordinarily productive of composers, among them such important figures as Palestrina and Monteverdi from Italy, Heinrich Schütz from Saxony, Orlande de Lassus from Flanders, Tomas Luis de Victoria from Spain and a crowd of Englishmen. By sad contrast the only composer of real historical significance born during the first half of the seventeenth was Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-87, Italian by birth and French by naturalization) whose ballets and operas earned him fame and favour at the court of King Louis XIV, established major/minor tonality on a sound basis, and helped to bridge the chronological gap between the death of Monteverdi in 1643 and the advent to maturity of Henry Purcell and Alessandro Scarlatti some forty years later.

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