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Inside Early MusicConversations with Performers$
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Bernard D. Sherman

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195169454

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195169454.001.0001

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You Can Never Be Right for All Time

You Can Never Be Right for All Time

(p.243) 13 You Can Never Be Right for All Time
Inside Early Music

Bernard D. Sherman

Oxford University Press

George Frideric Handel was the first composer in history whose works never fell out of the concert repertory. But despite the reverence for him, only a little of his music was actually performed in the 19th century. Messiah was one of them, of course, sung with increasingly gargantuan choruses and orchestras, and so were Samson, Israel in Egypt, and Judas Maccabeus. But such masterpieces as Theodora, Giulio Cesare, Jephtha, Orlando, and L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato occupied few beyond the occasional scholar. The coincidence of the Handel revival with the historical-performance movement has raised a number of issues. A more basic issue is the works themselves. When certain works by a widely revered composer are almost never played, one might be forgiven for suspecting that these works are of lesser quality. Such suspicions have faded in recent decades, but doubts about the stageworthiness of the operas persist. This chapter presents an interview with Nicholas McGegan on Handel, use of countertenors for the operatic roles written by Handel for castrati, early music singing in Handel, improvisation with Baroque orchestras, ornamentation in Handel’s works, harmony, rubato, Handel’s rhythmic notation, technical perfection, period pronunciation in English-language oratorios, and overdotting.

Keywords:   George Frideric Handel, operas, Nicholas McGegan, classical music, countertenors, oratorios, castrati, early music, improvisation, ornamentation

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