Sunday, 23 December 2007

Swearing in Eight Languages

G.F. Handel

George Frideric Handel was a German composer, though he did end up taking British nationality, and wrote most of his famous work here.

He was larger than life, spoke with a heavy German accent and could (and frequently did) swear for longer than most people without repeating himself, mainly because he was fluent (at swearing) in about eight different languages.

He had a serious temper on him, as well as making innovations in the field of management which for some reason modern practitioners haven't been eager to follow. During the rehearsals of one of his operas, the lead soprano refused to sing one of the songs, as it didn't suit her voice. Handel picked her up and, carrying her to a window, threatened to throw her out of it. She sang the song.

Why have I chosen Handel as the subejct of this post? Because I've been listening to his "Messiah" oratorio, which as you probably know sets to music words from the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Book of Common Prayer, in order to tell the story of Christ, and is often performed at Christmas and Easter.

Ipod users may be familiar with the "Hallelujah" chorus, which is one of the 50 or so numbers from this piece.

Handel was primarily an Opera composer, but since opera was performed in theatres it was considered somewhat sinful in 18 Century London, and he couldn't make a living from it. So he switched to composing Sacred Oratorios, which are basically operas that can be performed in churches, where although the singers play different roles, they don't dress up or move around, and which tell Biblical stories.

These stories tended to come from the Old Testament, and were very much like film adaptations. They'd take a chapter or two that told of a great battle, laced with smiting and heros, bung in some love interest, and because of Handel's great ability to write show-stopping catchy numbers, they'd have a hit on their hands.

"Messiah" is different. It doesn't tell a story in that way. In fact very little of it is taken from the Gospels. It concentrates on the theology. The singers don't play characters. The words were collected together by Charles Jennens. Three weeks later Handel announced that he'd finished it, after composing the music at a frantic speed. He did cheat slightly by taking some songs out of his old operas ("For Unto Us a Child is Born" is an example of this).

Jennens was not impressed. He'd slaved hard to compile the words, and felt that Handel can't have done a very good job in just 24 days. He hadn't actually heard the music, but went around telling people how rubbish it was.

You'd be hard pushed to find anyone in the last 250-odd years who have heard it and would agree with this assessment. Handel isn't as famous as he should be - his music is incredibly easy to listen to, and very melodic - much more so than Bach.

But isn't it hypocritical of a non-believer to be getting enthusiastic at one of the great expositions of Christian ideals? Probably, but why should God have all the best tunes?

26 comments:

Jean Knee said...

It's okay Brian, just because you're a Heathen doesn't mean you can't enjoy Holiday music.

Merry Christmas!!

Bee said...

"...why should God have all the best tunes?"
HAHAHAHAHA!
Sounds like my kinda guy!
You know how I don't like to brag...

Bragging Daughter Moment:
My father can ask or a beer in-
German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Chinese and of course English/Spanish.

That's my pops! :o)

Bee said...

"FOR"

I seriously don't know what's going on with me!

Brian o Vretanos said...

Jean Knee: (Future Saint)

Thankyou, very gracious of you.

Bee:

I was once told that "San Miguel" works in most countries ;-)

Funny - I've been getting lost words as well - I'm sure I wrote (Saint in Training) on Jean Knee's blog...

Jean Knee said...

I know I'm awesome and all, but saintly may be a wee bit much.


Look closely at that pic of Handel, he has your eyes and eyebrows, Brian. any relation we should know about?

Brian o Vretanos said...

Jean Knee:

I'm only trying to get you off the Naughty List, but don't you think you'd suit a halo?

I'm not sure I see the resemblence with Handel. He also looks pretty bald to me - My hair isn't receding anywhere near fast enough.

He was a big fat Kraut. As far as I know I'm not of German descent, and I'm not as round as he was...

Brian o Vretanos said...

Bee & Jean Knee:

I've just seen this on the news. You can get a DVD of your idol Putin - you get to see him half naked (they showed excerpts on TV):

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/12/21/wputin221.xml

Brian o Vretanos said...

Ah, the link doesn't work. Just google "Putin judo DVD"...

Jean Knee said...

Only the eyebrows and eyes, not the rest of him.

Jean Knee said...

checked out putin- interesting

I just hope George W. doesn't put out a bare torsoed line dancing video (shiver)



line dancing- Texan type dance, yes I'm good at it thanks for asking

Jean Knee said...

I'm back on the nice list

Brian o Vretanos said...

I'm hopeless with faces, so I'm not good at judging resemblence.

As far as I can tell he's got two eyes and eyebrows, and so have I - an uncanny similarity ;-)

Brian o Vretanos said...

Jean Knee:

I'm afraid that line dancing didn't stay in Texas - it was popular here for a while a few years ago. Some people spent a fortune on the outfits. I bet they're all rotting in wardrobes now...

They didn't do it "bare torsoed" here, though - won't that put you back on the naughty list?

Bee said...

I will not settle for anything less than completely naked!!

Having said that, I'm off to clicky on the link.

Jean Knee said...

Why, oh why would we inflict line dancing on you poor innocent Brits??

It comes and goes here, although it's always popular in Hick hangouts

Jean Knee said...

I just saw your queen on youtube....

what's up with that?

Brian o Vretanos said...

Jean Knee,

You forget that I don't keep in touch with UK events any more.

I've just had a look, and it appears that they're going to put the Queen's Christmas Day message on there.

Thankyou, Jean Knee, this has given me a great idea for a Christmas post!

Bee said...

I hear you laughing at me because I'm at work!

Brian o Vretanos said...

Bee:

How could you think such a thing! It's not true - I'm too busy enjoying my temporary LIFE OF LEISURE.

[Raising my glass of port] Cheers!

Jean Knee said...

My special Christmas gift just for you! I am always "short" on blogging material. Ha that's what Bee said!


Mewrry Christmas to my favorite Heathen!!! (that means you, Brian)

Bee said...

"Mewrry"?

Brian o Vretanos said...

Bee:

You were right, she's started celebrating already...

Jean Knee:

Thankyou!

Bee said...

:-O
I just got a bonus!! I take back my bah humbug!!!
OZ rules!
For now...

Brian o Vretanos said...

That's good news!

Jean Knee said...

yay bonus!!!

I meant merry. haven't taken my valium yet

Brian o Vretanos said...

I'm not ignoring you Jean Knee, I was writing my post, which I'll put up in a little while...