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  • Writer's pictureGraham Abbott

Handel's English World, Part 3: Phoenix Rising

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

By early 1739 Handel's London audiences must have wondered what on earth he was up to. Here was the nation's leading composer of Italian opera offering them a season which contained almost no Italian operas. The winter season of 1739 ran from January to May, and during that time Handel offered his public the premiere seasons of Saul and Israel in Egypt (Biblical oratorios in English), a revival of Alexander's Feast (an ode in English), and a revival of Il trionfo del tempo (an adaptation of a secular Italian oratorio).

In addition, right near the end of the season, he gave two performances of a work called Jupiter in Argos. This was, on paper, a pasticcio opera; that is, an opera made up of pre-existing arias and new recitatives. Jupiter in Argos contains music that is entirely by Handel: a few new arias, plus arias from other works, and new recitatives, to an Italian text. But whether it was staged or given as a serenata (that is, in a concert performance) is not known. Most unusual of all is that Handel titled an Italian work in English; normally an Italian opera would have an Italian title (in this case Giove in Argo). One can't help getting the impression that Handel didn't really care about the piece and it soon fell into obscurity.

The hit of the season was undoubtedly Saul. The opening night of Saul - 16 January, 1739 - was the last recorded occasion on which the King (George II) attended one of Handel's theatre performances. (As a footnote, this means there is no evidence that George II attended a performance of Messiah, meaning it's unlikely he stood during the "Hallelujah" chorus...) As for Saul, the royal patronage, the huge orchestra, and the work's novelties (a carillon, the "double drums" from Tower of London, and much more besides); all these would have helped the piece make an impression. But apart from the superficial, Saul is indeed a masterpiece on every level. It was the first occasion on which Handel showed the true dramatic and musical potential of English oratorio, and coupled with a vivid and insightful libretto by Charles Jennens, the first King of Israel is given a treatment which puts him on a level with Oedipus, Hamlet or Lear.

My favourite quote about Saul comes from the pen of the Handel biographer Jonathan Keates:

Saul remains without equal among the oratorios for the colour and variety of its incidents... It was a more stirring and colourful libretto than any he had ever set before or was to set again, and [Handel] matched it with music of extraordinary conviction and authority, whose abundance is overwhelming in a way unmatched by any other dramatic work in the European music of the period, with the same incisive grandeur and assurance of gesture as are found in Die Zauberflöte, Aïda, and Die Meistersinger. It is almost impossible to write calmly about so monumental an achievement.

So when the season ended on 5 May, with Jupiter in Argos, Handel moved his operations out of the King's Theatre and - as far as documentary evidence is concerned - disappears from view for a few months. Where Handel was during the summer, and what he did, is unknown; no evidence of his actions between 5 May and 15 September exists. We can assume that he took a break as he occasionally did; we know Handel had friends "in the country" and sometimes spent time with them. We can also guess that he probably entered into some negotiations with John Rich for the lease of his theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, but this is all conjecture.

The next documented evidence we have for Handel is on 15 September 1739, the date he started composing the work we now call the Ode for St Cecilia's Day. Handel had already set one of Dryden's St Cecilia odes when he composed Alexander's Feast; now he set the other. The resulting work was the equivalent in length to a single act of an oratorio or opera and it took him ten days to write.

Kneller: John Dryden (1693)

The St Cecilia Ode is one of Handel's most glorious settings of English - he had, after all, a first rate text to start with - but I can't help thinking that in writing this ode in praise of the art of music that Handel was making a statement of some sort. On a practical level, he intended to couple this single act work with Alexander's Feast, which was a two-act work, to make a single night's entertainment in three parts that his audiences would expect. But in the Ode Handel seems to surpass Alexander's Feast in the sheer gorgeousness of his utterances in praise of the art which was his entire life. [listen]

Raphael: The Ecstasy of St Cecilia (1514)

The St Cecilia ode even provided Handel with the opportunity to praise the organ, his own instrument, and apart from writing one of the most sublime and most beautiful arias of his life, he gave himself the chance to put the spotlight on his own playing at the keyboard. [listen]

What Handel was planning for his next season was nothing short of a complete jettisoning of the Italian language, and thereby, of Italian opera. In fact he had almost done exactly that in the 1739 season, were it not for Jupiter in Argos, but for his new venture to succeed he had to beat the competition.

And there was plenty of competition. A new opera company under Charles Sackville, Earl of Middlesex, was formed in 1739 and based at the King's Theatre, where Handel had worked on and off for years. Handel wanted to be different and he already knew from bitter experience that Italian opera was on the wane in London, quite apart from being outrageously expensive to maintain with the huge fees required for all the imported singers.

Carriera: Charles Sackville, Earl of Middlesex (1730)

The other competition came in print. A great deal of music - a lot of it Italian - was finding its way into London as music publishing flourished. Handel had already had music published but now he met one of his greatest challengers head on. Arcangelo Corelli, the famous violinist and composer, had died in 1713, and by 1739 his collection of concertos known as "concerti grossi" was famous across Europe. They were classics.

In an incredible month, from late September to late October 1739, Handel composed his own set of concerti grossi, titled in English as "grand concertos", the set which was published as his Opus 6. The twelve concertos of Handel's Opus 6 are stunning, every one of them, and they are rightly held to be one of the twin peaks of Baroque concerto grosso writing. The other peak, of course, is Bach's Brandenburg Concertos.

Unlike Bach's concertos, written the previous decade and which Handel would certainly not have known, Handel's Opus 6 is entirely restricted to string instruments, with a concertino or solo group of two violins and a cello contrasted with a string orchestra. This instrumentation matches that of Corelli's set (also his Opus 6, coincidentally), and Handel also structured his concertos in the Corellian manner, starting with a slow movement and having as many as five or six movements in each work. This contrasts with the Vivaldi model, of three movements (fast-slow-fast).

Handel meticulously dated his manuscripts, and the rate at which these 12 concertos poured out of him is nothing short of astounding. He spent an average of two or three days on each concerto. Here's the tenth concerto. [listen]

The question arises as to why Handel wrote these concertos. He was always practical and wrote things for a reason. Apart from making a statement publicly that he was not only able to match Corelli but surpass him, Handel clearly intended to use these concertos in the same way he used his organ concertos: in his oratorio performances. Handel regularly inserted concertos during acts, or sometimes between them, as extra attractions for his audience and the variety of an orchestral concerto, rather than one for organ, would have been a welcome one. And he was still writing organ concertos, too. He had completed a new one only a few months before.

Handel's new season at Lincoln's Inn Fields started early, before any of the other major companies in London; he was determined to beat the competition at every turn. And the choice of date was no accident. On 22 November 1739 - St Cecilia's Day - Handel opened the season with his works setting both of Dryden's Cecilian odes: Alexander's Feast coupled with the new St Cecilia ode, which was receiving its first performance. Acis and Galatea was included in the season as well before proceedings came to a halt because of the weather.

The start of 1740 was one of the coldest London winters on record. Severe frost closed theatres across the city, and much of the regular business of the capital came to a halt. Not Handel. He used the time to compose and the work he created was again a setting of great English poetry - Milton this time - but one unlike anything he wrote before or since.

Milton's two odes to human nature are in English but titled in Italian. Called L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, the titles could be translated as "The Happy Man" and "The Thoughtful Man". Milton's 17th century polarisation of humanity into two possible emotional states was at odds with 18th century thought, which favoured a middle path, a moderation of extremes. To this end, Charles Jennens, who had written the libretto for Saul, presented Handel with an oratorio text which not only conflated Milton's odes as the first two acts, but (perhaps audaciously) added a third act written by Jennens himself called Il Moderato ("The Moderate Man").

John Milton (c. 1629)

Thus Handel was presented with an entire three act oratorio text in which there is no drama, no action, at all. Yet he thrived on the challenge of setting emotional states to music - it's what he had done for decades in opera anyway - and L'Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato (to give its cumbersome complete title) was composed during the cold snap of 1740 in a mere 16 days. A few days later he finished another organ concerto (Op 7 No 1, the only Handel organ concerto requiring pedals).

L'Allegro (as it's usually referred to) is not often performed today; modern audiences don't know what to make of it. Yet it contains some of Handel's most marvellously infectious music. The parade of contrasting emotions - happiness and gay abandon, followed by gloom and melancholy - is a showcase of Handel's theatrical wit. The only really well-known movement is the sublime duet "As steals the morn upon the night" which comes right at the end, rightly lauded as one of Handel's most beautiful creations. [listen] But his portrayal of busy cities and bustling crowds is a section which has always been a favourite of mine. [listen]

The new organ concerto requiring pedals is a bit of a mystery. In Handel's day, organs in England did not have pedal ranks like those in Germany (for which Bach wrote his organ music). The only organ with a pedal rank in Handel's England was that in St Paul's Cathedral. That Handel wrote this particular concerto and marked sections of it to be played on the pedals suggests that there was an organ at Lincoln's Inn Fields which had pedals, even if not a separate rank of pedal pipes. It's likely that the pedals were coupled to the manuals, thus facilitating extra basslines but not adding a lot of extra volume to the sound. Furthermore, Handel's concerto seems to have been written for show; the pedal music can mostly be covered by the left hand, but the organ was probably positioned so that the audience could see Handel using the pedals, which would have been a huge novelty. He didn't miss a trick. [listen]

The weather had improved enough by late February for Handel to resume his season on the 21st. Six days later, on the 27th, L'Allegro - with the new organ concerto played between the second and third acts - was premiered. The night also included two of the Opus 6 concerti grossi.

It must still have been very cold; Handel's press ads promised that the gaps under the doors would be stuffed with cloth and that the theatre would be made as warm as possible. The season was a big one, with revivals of Saul, Esther and Israel in Egypt, along with more performances of L'Allegro, the St Cecilia Ode and Acis and Galatea. The Opus 6 concertos were published on 21 April and the season closed two days later with a final performance of L'Allegro.

The season of winter and spring 1740 is remembered for many things, but mostly it is remembered for being the first time Handel performed an entire season made up of English language works. The public response was largely positive, although a far cry from the heady days of the opera craze, and songs from numerous Handel works were appearing in print. The tide seemed to be turning, but Handel knew it was far too early to rest on his laurels.

In May 1740, Handel fulfilled a bizarre royal commission, the last time he composed something for a royal wedding. On this occasion it was the marriage of Princess Mary, daughter of King George, to the Prince of Hesse-Kassel. The only problem was that the groom wasn't present.

Desmarées: Princess Mary of Great Britain portrayed as Hereditary Princess of Hesse-Kassel (1752)

The Prince refused to come to England for the wedding, and the King refused to allow his daughter to leave the country unmarried, so a marriage of sorts took place in the Chapel Royal on 8 May. It was more of an espousal ceremony, and the papers reported that for this odd event Handel composed an anthem. The music for it is lost so we have no idea exactly what he provided; most likely it was music from earlier royal wedding anthems which had been recycled. It was hardly a high-profile public event, and the Princess went to Hesse afterwards - as married as she could be under the circumstances - to undergo the wedding ceremony proper. The bridegroom was present for that one.

Handel himself went to the Continent in the late summer of 1740, although we're not sure exactly where. He is known to have been in Holland, but reports that he also went to Berlin and elsewhere are unconfirmed.

We do know that he was back in London and back at work in early October, and here we encounter one of those surprises which keep us guessing as to what Handel was really thinking and planning. Handel was working on not one but two Italian operas.

One would have been forgiven for thinking that after presenting an all-English season that he'd given up on Italian opera for good. But in early October he returned to the score of the opera Imeneo, which had lain unfinished since 1738, and it was completed by the 10th. He then set to work on a new opera, Deidamia, and by early November he'd written the first two acts. Handel was planning a new season at Lincoln's Inn Fields which would premiere two new Italian operas.

Why? In 1740-41 the Middlesex opera company, which had been in competition with him but struggling, went into recess. Some of their singers thus became available to Handel, and as there was no serious competition with regard to Italian opera it probably seemed like a good thing to do. A number of the singers he now had were Italian and could not comfortably sing in English, so he had to provide Italian works for them.

The season opened on 8 November with a single revival performance of the Italian serenata Parnasso in festa, after which came the premiere of Imeneo on 22 November. During this time Handel hastily completed Deidamia's final act and put it into rehearsal. Imeneo had a second performance on 13 December (an earlier performance on 29 November had to be cancelled due to the leading lady being unwell). The premiere of Deidamia took place on 10 January, 1741. It only had two more performances - on 24 January and 10 February - by which time Handel had started to revive English language works to complete the season.

But that third and final performance of Deidamia - 10 February, 1741 - was the end. That was the last time Handel performed an Italian opera in London, and with that, the nearly four-decades long operatic career of the greatest composer of opera seria came to an end. This is the final ensemble of Handel's last opera. [listen]

There is little record of what Handel's audiences thought of the final operas. The season itself was hardly busy, only six performances in two months, but it was clear Handel was at work behind the scenes getting a series of predominantly English-language works ready to complete the season. Two days before the final performance of Deidamia Handel revived L'Allegro and the season went on contain Acis and Galatea and Saul in bilingual versions. Handel had to interpolate Italian arias - either translations of existing pieces or new pieces from elsewhere - for the Italian cast members who couldn't sing in English. The season ended on 8 April with a conflated version of L'Allegro and the Ode for St Cecilia's Day.

As was Handel's usual practice, the summer months involved composition and - we assume - some travel out of the city. Yet some aspects of his work in mid-1741 are puzzling. Why, for instance, did he compose two Italian duets in early July? These miniature cantatas contain melodies he would almost immediately recycle in his most famous work, but the question remains as to the purpose of these pieces. [listen]

The later part of the summer, though, was taken up with the composition of two new English oratorios. Messiah, to a libretto compiled by Jennens from the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer, was written between 22 August and 14 September. Two weeks later, on 29 September, Handel set to work setting the libretto of Samson, and this was finished in its essentials exactly a month later. The librettist for Samson was Newburgh Hamilton, who had arranged Dryden's Alexander's Feast for Handel to set some years before.

The iconic status which Messiah has in western music culture makes it almost impossible for us to see it as "just another oratorio". It's hard, for example, for us not to see it as the start of a new life for Handel, being written only a few months after the last performance of his last Italian opera. Maybe Handel did see it that way. But the fact remains that the composition of Messiah and Samson so closely together followed the pattern tentatively established with Saul and Israel in Egypt in 1738, and which he would follow well into the 1740s; namely, writing oratorios in pairs in the summer in preparation for the new season.

And if Handel was abandoning Italian texts entirely, why did he write those duets? [listen]

There was some contact between Handel and the Middlesex opera company, which was back in action, albeit on a shaky financial footing. Some writers conjecture that the Italian duets may have been written for some of that company's singers, but there is no solid evidence for this. It is known that, on 31 October, two days after completing Samson, Handel attended an opera performance at the King's Theatre mounted by the Middlesex company. How must he have felt, hearing someone else's piece performed by someone else's company in a theatre in which he had worked so often over the past 30 years?

What we do know is that by this stage Handel was ready to leave London for an extended stay in Dublin. It seems that negotiations for him to mount a concert season in the Irish capital had been underway for a few months, although Handel was clearly hedging his bets in case the Dublin trip fell through. Messiah is scored for very small forces in its original form; the orchestra requires only strings, trumpets, timpani and continuo (that's right, not even oboes; they were added later in London). This would make it ideal to tour somewhere where he was not familiar with the orchestral resources which might be available. Samson, on the other hand, requires more lavish orchestral resources, and was more suited to the London scene.

As it turned out, less than three weeks after attending that opera performance in London, Handel was in Dublin; he arrived on 18 November. In his luggage was the performance material for Messiah. Samson, still requiring the final work on its orchestration, he left at home.

Dublin at this time had an active music and theatre scene, and many musicians, actors and other artists from London made their way across the Irish Sea to perform there. Ireland was, of course, still under British rule in those days, and was governed by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland as the King's representative. It was an invitation from the Lord Lieutenant (William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire) which had led to Handel coming to Dublin.

William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire

Handel planned his concerts in Dublin to be given in short subscription seasons. On 12 December, 1741, he placed press ads announcing the start of the first season of six performances. This began on 23 December and comprised two performances of L'Allegro (with its original ending restored), two evenings combining Acis and Galatea with the St Cecilia ode, and two performances of Esther. The season ended on 10 February.

For his chorus Handel used, as he did in London, choirs of men and boys in what we now think of as the Anglican cathedral tradition: boy sopranos, and adult countertenors, tenors and basses. In Dublin, the choir was in fact made up of the members of the city's two Anglican cathedral choirs, but on 28 January the Dean of St Patrick's, Jonathan Swift, issued a memorandum to the effect that Cathedral's choristers were not to be involved in more of Handel's concerts.

Jervas: Jonathan Swift (1710)

This is the same Jonathan Swift who had achieved fame as the author of Gulliver's Travels and much else besides, but by this stage he was already seriously affected by mental illness. He was regarded by some as quite insane by this time and died only three years later.

The extent to which Swift's edict affected Handel's performances is unclear, but it seems that he reduced the choral component of Esther near the end of the first series of performances because of the fact that he had fewer choristers available.

Handel had already decided, though, to proceed with a second Dublin season and advertised this in the papers. The second subscription began on 17 February and included Alexander's Feast and a concert performance (billed as a "serenata") of his Italian opera Imeneo.

Handel to a large extent relied on Dublin-based performers for his concerts. He only brought one singer with him from London, the Italian soprano Christina Maria Avolio. He also brought two copyists.

The orchestra was led by Matthew Dubourg, a violinist who had studied in London with Geminiani but who had been Master of the King's Musick in Ireland since 1728. He would have been invaluable in getting a good orchestra together for Handel.

For his second season Handel engaged a new professional singer, the alto Susanna Cibber. Cibber was the sister of the composer Thomas Augustine Arne and she had arrived in Dublin not long after Handel, completely independently of him. She was a gifted actress and was working in a Dublin theatre when Handel invited her to sing in his second season. He was clearly taken with her voice as he rearranged much of the music to suit her. Her illness for part of the second subscription meant that Handel had to hastily substitute L'Allegro for Alexander's Feast one night.

Susanna Cibber (1749)

All the other vocal soloists had to be found in Dublin, and many of the solo parts were sung by members of the Cathedral choirs who provided the chorus. The second subscription ended on 7 April, but Handel still had a new work in hand. [listen]

Handel decided to give Messiah its premiere as an extra performance, and not part of a season, and so two days later, on 9 April, it was rehearsed publicly. This public rehearsal clearly stimulated huge public interest; Handel's concerts had been very successful overall, but to be offered the excitement of a premiere was something extra again. The premiere of Messiah - a charity fundraiser for Dublin's debtors' prisons - took place on Tuesday 13 April, 1742, the Tuesday of holy week. The 700 people squeezed into the hall designed to accommodate 600 gave the work an warm reception, and the newspapers praised it fulsomely.

A month later, on 25 May, Handel gave a single performance of Saul and then on 3 June a second and final performance of Messiah, bringing his Dublin performances to a close. [listen]

Handel stayed on in Dublin for more than two months, but he eventually left on 13 August. By 9 September he was back in London; on that date he wrote to Jennens (the librettist for Messiah). He reported on the success of Messiah in Dublin - it seems Handel was aware that Jennens had been miffed by the fact that it hadn't been premiered in London - and goes on to counter a rumour to the effect that he had accepted the directorship of the Middlesex opera company. Most interestingly he goes on to say...

Whether I shall do some thing in the Oratorio way (as several of my friends desire) I can not determine as yet. Certain it is that this time 12 month I shall continue my Oratorio's in Ireland, where they are agoing to make a large Subscription allready for that Purpose...

Even though the planned return to Dublin never came to fruition, doing something "in the oratorio way" in London seems to have been very much on Handel's mind. He set to work revising and completing Samson, which was finally finished on 12 October. And there were more Italian duets, written on 31 October and 2 November. Again, the purpose of these is a mystery.

But Samson is a glorious achievement. It is also huge, comprising nearly three and a half hours of music, much longer than Messiah. Handel had been introduced to Milton's Samson Agonistes back in 1739 and was clearly moved by it. The text was arranged for Handel by Newburgh Hamilton, who skilfully condensed Milton's blank verse into recitatives and wrote rhyming verses for the arias and choruses, but the poem itself presented familiar challenges to Handel.

Milton's epic poem omits all the usual Samson-associated drama we know from the Bible story (and the Saint-Saëns opera). It takes place on the last day of Samson's life as he reflects on past events. Even the incredible scene of him bringing down the temple and killing all the Philistines takes place offstage and is reported by a messenger. Here again, as in L'Allegro (Milton again), Handel's theatrical gifts come to the fore in setting emotional states to music in what seems to us to be an almost static dramatic environment.

Samson is not often performed today - a sadly familiar refrain with most of Handel's oratorios - and even then it's almost never performed complete. Two arias are known in isolation, the dramatically irrelevant but vocally stunning "Let the bright seraphim" from the end of the third act, and the aria in which Samson laments his blindness, the moving "Total eclipse". [listen]

A vital element of the dramatic make-up of Samson is the fact that two nations are pitted against each other. Handel writes different styles of music for each, and obviously relished the chance to pit both nations against each other at the end of the second act. [listen]

Following the success of his Dublin venture, Handel could reasonably have assumed that London audiences would take to his new oratorios and to the notion of short subscription seasons. He planned an oratorio season at the Covent Garden theatre for early 1743 which would offer two six-performance seasons. He was still offering organ concertos, and the "grand concertos" of his Opus 6, as instrumental fillers during and between the acts of the oratorios, and he completed a new organ concerto (now known as Op 7 No 2) on 5 February. Revivals and repeats were the backbone of the venture, but the public would always want new works as well. [listen]

Denner: George Frideric Handel (1733)

Handel was set to absolutely trounce the Middlesex opera company and anyone else who wanted to challenge his position as London's leading theatrical composer. He was now in completely uncharted territory and offering seasons which were still regarded as new. Yet it was clear to all that Italian opera was yesterday's entertainment, and having side-stepped the opportunity of offering opera in English, he had stumbled on oratorio as a means of expressing his gifts, making his mark, leaving a legacy and proving his worth. The battle lines were drawn and it was Horace Walpole who summed it up beautifully:

Handel has set up an Oratorio against the Operas...and succeeds.

The Covent Garden season opened on 18 February 1743 with the premiere of Samson. The first subscription was in fact made up entirely of six performances of Samson and it was a massive hit. Matthew Dubourg, the violinist who had led Handel's orchestra in Dublin, had returned to London to lead Handel's orchestra there, and his solo playing was a hit too.

In the second set of six performances Handel gave Samson three more times, then revived L'Allegro (in the version omitting Il Moderato and replacing it with the St Cecilia ode), before giving two performances of Messiah. This was London's first opportunity to hear Messiah, but if Handel was expecting a repeat of the rapturous response the work received in Dublin, he was to be sadly disappointed.

Messiah's London premiere was 23 March, 1743, but there were questions in the papers beforehand as to the appropriateness of a work about Jesus being given in a theatre. Handel carefully advertised the work not as Messiah, but as A New Sacred Oratorio, although he used Messiah in the word book which his audience had to follow in the performance. There was unease in the artistic community that Handel may have crossed a line, and this was not just a matter of the different temperaments of the Irish and English audiences. In Dublin, Handel's performances were performed in a concert venue, a newly-built music hall. In London, he performed in a theatre. This distinction was of great importance to 18th century audiences.

But Handel completed his season with further performances of both Messiah and Samson, ending on Maundy Thursday, 31 March.

Yet he was under pressure, and not only from work and the public controversy over Messiah. Charles Jennens, the librettist of Messiah, had made it perfectly clear to Handel that not only was he annoyed that Messiah had been premiered in Dublin, but that he was annoyed that Messiah hadn't been the work to open the 1743 season in London. And as if that wasn't enough, he made it clear that he thought Handel's music wasn't up to the task of setting the words he had arranged.

Jennens's attitude was very odd. It seems he'd formed - and voiced - an opinion before even seeing the score let alone hearing it. Once he did hear it he confessed that Handel had made a "fine Entertainment" of it.

In a letter to Edward Holdsworth on 29 April, Jennens wrote:

'Tis after all, in the main, a fine Composition, notwithstanding some weak parts, which he was too idle & too obstinate to retouch, tho' I us'd great opportunity to perswade him to it.

Less than two weeks later, Handel was being reported in the papers as having had another medical crisis of some sort. On 11 April he was described as being "dangerously ill", and despite a quick recovery there was a relapse shortly afterwards. Again, medical opinion today is not given a lot to go on, given the ways in which illnesses were described in the 18th century. Jennens called it a "Paralytick Disorder", Horace Walpole called it "a palsy".

Jennens even claimed in a later letter, with some pride, that he may have contributed to Handel's collapse in pressuring him to rewrite parts of Messiah.

This shews that I gall'd him: but I have not done with him yet.

Yet in his usual manner, Handel recovered quickly and by June was back at work. He was 58, and he was far from done with us, either. The triumphant closing chorus of Samson, which ended that history-making 1743 season, paints a picture of glory after apparent defeat. I'll end this article with that glorious music as a tribute to Handel's continuing triumphs as well. [listen]

Etxenagusia: Samson and Delilah (1887)

Handel's English World was presented on ABC Classic FM (now ABC Classic) as a special six-part series in December 2014 and January 2015.

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