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Interpreting the Musical PastEarly Music in Nineteenth Century France$
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Katharine Ellis

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195365856

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195365856.001.0001

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Baroque Choral Music: The Popular and the Profound

Baroque Choral Music: The Popular and the Profound

(p.209) 7 Baroque Choral Music: The Popular and the Profound
Interpreting the Musical Past

Katharine Ellis

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how the politicized nature of Handel's reception in the late 1860s caused enthusiasm for his choral music to reach a nationalist peak at Bach's expense shortly after war ended. Presented as a quasi-Latin and quasi-Republican figure, Handel the oratorio composer appeared accessible, macho, indomitable, and expressive of social cohesion. The chapter centers on debates about France's relatively weak musical capital in comparison with Protestant countries, especially an ascendant Germany. The state of the nationwide orphéon tradition, seemingly in crisis with musically illiterate participants and a simplistic repertory, fuelled calls to overhaul France's choral traditions. The chapter examines this short-lived, almost expedient, revival of Handel ode and oratorio as an example of cosmopolitan nationalism intensified by the experience of defeat. It offers telling evidence of a French need for a masculine musical culture and of their inability to find such a combination of brute strength and stylistic accessibility among native composers. It closes with an account of the post-Handelian return to Bach's choral music and the ideologies underpinning it.

Keywords:   Handel, Oratorio, Choral music, Gender, orphéon, Bach, nationalism

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