Saturday, 21 February 2009

Love in Bath

Today I'm going to talk about a large irascible German, the grandson of a Lancastrian laxative magnate, and we'll throw in some ballerinas for good measure.

Right, that's the ballerinas out of the way. I'm afraid that ballet leaves me completely unmoved. However, it's an unavoidable part of today's subject, as you'll see.

Here's the quick-tempered German.

George Handel (1685 - 1759). Some of my longer-standing readers will no doubt remember a previous post about him (Swearing in Eight Languages). He came to Britain in 1712 and stayed here, eventually becoming a British citizen. His former employer, the Prince of Hanover followed him over a couple of years later, when he got the job of King here and became George I.

Handel was a brilliant composer who wrote the music to lots of operas. Unfortunately since operas were foreign (the words were in Italian), and they were put on in theatres, which were considered sinful dens of iniquity, he had difficulty making a living. Theatres used to only be allowed to open a few days of the year, and all it took was some notable person to die, or a war, or whatever, and the government would close them out of respect.

Handel's other problem was that there was competition - another theatre on the same street used to put operas on. Even though Handel had the royal family going to his operas (which was considered a bit scandalous), they failed to make a profit.

So he turned to religion and wrote Oratorios instead, which are basically operas about Biblical stories where the singers don't dress up. He did write ballet, but I don't think I've listened to any of it.

Finally, here's a well-off Englishman
Sir Thomas Beecham, Bart, CH (1879 - 1961). His grandfather was a Lancastrian industrialist who made a fortune from laxatives ("Beecham's Pills Make All The Difference"), and he became one of the greatest conductors of his time.

He was also acquainted with royalty - if the following conversation from Wikipedia is to be believed, which apparently took place in his later years. He was talking to a woman whose name he couldn't remember, and asked her how she was:
"Oh, very well, but my brother has been rather ill lately."

"Ah, yes, your brother. I'm sorry to hear that. And, er, what is your brother doing at the moment?"

"Well... he's still King", replied Princess Mary.
I know how he felt. I often forget names and faces, too.

Anway, fast forward to the early 1990s, when I was a student. I used to buy a lot of recordings, usually on casette tape, and quite a few of them were Beecham's later orchestral recordings of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert and so on. One of them was an arrangement he made of some of Handel's music.

A lot of Handel's operas weren't really well known until they started to be recorded near then end of the 20th Century - remember that no-one had gone to the operas in the 18th Century, so Beecham had arranged some of this music as orchestral suites, a piano concerto, and ... a ballet. Called Love in Bath.

I don't know much about the ballet, but I don't think it's got anything to do with any kinky goings on in the tub. the Bath in question is this one:

These sort of arrangements aren't really rated very highly these days, since people can get the original operas on CD, but I listened to that tape until it wore out. And then I found they'd stopped selling it.

I haven't bought CDs for ages - I don't listen to much music these days. But I had a look on Amazon the other day and found they'd used Love in Bath as filler on one of Handel's oratorios, and immediately ordered it. Along with a CD of excellently transfered 78 recordings of his other Handel arrangements.

It arrived this morning, so I've been spending happy hours listening, and remembering the year I spent in as a student teacher in Lancaster. One day I'll write about that, I think. But right now, I must go and get Helena.


Kat said...

Haha...after that first sentence I thought you were going to talk about me. ROFL. Irascible German...I think the hubby might know a thing or two about that.

Enjoy the downtime listening to some classic music and have a splendid weekend.

Chris Wood said...

I just received one of my favourite CDs in the post - Nigel Kennedy playing Brahms. Wonderful!

Brian o vretanos said...




Enjoy... Brahms is a bit modern for me ;-)

No Cool Story said...

I still have more music than you.

No Cool Story said...

If anyone would have asked me to correctly identify which guy was the German, I'd have failed.

I am glad no one asked.

Bee said...

Sounds like you had a very enjoyable Saturday! Nice and quiet. I haven't had quiet time in oh about uh a month.

I may try You Tube to see if I can find some of this dude's music but I'm thinking even Youtube might come up empty. ;o)

Brian o vretanos said...


You're way ahead of me - I don't even own an ipod...


Yes, I did. There's loads of Handel, and some Beecham stuff on youtube, but I couldn't find these arrangements.

Dan said...

I'm way behind with my blogging!