The Necessary 100: Let's not forget George Frideric Handel's Messiah and other big hits
Everything we need to know about Western art music has its roots in the 17th and 18th centuries, so we need to spend more time with some of its seminal composers -- and give them a few more credits on the Necessary 100 list.
Today's man: George Frideric Handel, an incredibly inventive, self-reinventive individual, born in Germany in 1685, musically spit-and-polished in Rome and then transplanted to the England of soon-to-be King George I. Handel wrote music for every occasion, both sacred and secular. He died in 1759. He had his own opera company. I'm going to over-simplify in saying that Handel's music is less complex, less intellectual than J.S. Bach's, but makes up for it by being unfailingly beguiling.
How else to explain the zillions of performances of the three sets of works that should be on our Necessary 100 list. There's no reason to sneer at excessive popularity here. I remind myself that it was Messiah and the Coronation Anthems that were my personal introduction to Handel's music -- and introduction that has fostered a lifelong love.
In 1717, King George I loved the sound of these three barge-borne suites so much that he asked to hear them again twice. Unlike the Baroque ensembles we hear these days, Handel had a pretty large orchestra at his disposal for this proejct, probably numbering around 50.
Here is Concerto Köln performing the first five minutes of the first suite in Nantes, France in 2006:
*The Coronation Anthems
Just before George I died in 1727, he made Handel a British subject. Handel repaid the favour by composing four anthems for the coronation of George II (the last British monarch to not be born on English soil). Handel had a couple of hundred singers and instrumentalists at his disposal for these big, gorgeous pieces.
Here is an XXL version of "Zadok the Priest," with the BBC Symphony and Chorus led by Sir Andrew Davis outside Buckingham Palace for the Quen's Golden Jubilee in 2002:
In 1741, Handel's Italian operas had gone out of fashion, his opera company was nothing but a pile of debts. Rather than sulk, he took his friend Charles Jennens' collected texts on the promise of Christian salvation and wrote the greatest oratoio hit of all time. 'Nuff said.
Here, for the heck of it, is a Toronto group rehearsing "But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming" in Mandarin: