Raging Roland: Cathy Bell

RagingRoland

(Handel House, 8 October 2015)

 Having been delighted by Cathy Bell‘s Venti turbini the other week, I’d really been looking forward to this recital at Handel House focused on Ludovico Ariosto’s Renaissance epic. The programme was split equally between Handel (Orlando and Alcina) and Vivaldi (Orlando furioso), and Bell was accompanied by two other members of last year’s Handel House Talent group: Marie van Rhijn on harpsichord, and Caoimhe de Paor joining them on recorder for a formidably complicated piece of Vivaldi, on which more later. Fittingly, given its source, it was a recital that offered rage and romance in equal measure. Continue reading

Handel House Talent Scheme 2015-16

George_Frideric_Handel_by_Balthasar_Denner

I was flattered and quite frankly rather astonished when Handel House invited me to join them for their 2015-16 Talent Scheme launch event on 21 September (to watch, not to participate, obviously). Every year they take on half a dozen scarily talented young musicians who specialise in Baroque music and provide them with a space to develop their skills with masterclasses, performance opportunities and other guidance.

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Erica Eloff: The Trials and Triumphs of Love

Erica Eloff

(with Ars Eloquentiae at Handel House, 2 July 2015)

The beginning of July was almost unbearably hot by London standards; and so, on walking into Handel House’s recital room, I was delighted to find a novel solution to the problem. Every chair was graced with its own neat red folded fan. The team should be congratulated: few London venues would be so thoughtful nor so imaginative (I should note that we did have to give them back at the end: a shame, as they were more efficacious than my own).

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Randall Scotting: A Year in the Life of Handel: 1738

Randall Scotting

A recital by Randall Scotting and Marie van Rhijn

(Handel House Museum, 22 March 2015)

Back in October, on visiting Handel House for the first time, I wrote about their exhibition, A Year in the Life of Handel. This focused on the works produced by Handel in 1738 and the challenges he faced at the time. Not least of these was the growing indifference of the English public to Italian opera seria: audiences were thinning out and there was barely enough interest to sustain one Italian opera company, let alone Handel’s team at Covent Garden and the rival Opera of the Nobility. As if that wasn’t enough, Italian opera was also being satirised in English-language burlesques, most famously The Dragon of Wantley.

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A Year in the Life of Handel: 1738

Roubillac: Handel

 (Handel House, until 4 January 2015)

In January 1738 an amateur theatre critic reported on the premiere of Handel’s new opera, Faramondo: ‘On Tuesday last, we had a new opera of Handel’s… It is too like his former compositions, and wants variety – I heard his singer that night, and think him near equal in merit to the late Carestini, with this advantage, that he has acquired the happy knack of throwing out a sound, now and then, very like what we hear from a distressed young calf.

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A First Visit to Handel House

Handel House

The Rehearsal Room with its harpsichord

(25 Brook Street, London)

Although I’ve lived and worked in Central London for eight years, I’d never been to Handel House before; but this morning I went to the Queen’s Gallery to see their First Georgians exhibition before it closed, and this offered the perfect complement. All in all, it was a very Georgian day out. The contrast between the two views of 18th-century London was telling. The Queen’s Gallery understandably presents a very elevated view of the period – paintings, furniture, battles and politics – whereas Handel House offers a glimpse of a more down-to-earth, scurrilous, energetic London: a ‘teeming, filthy, vibrant city’, the largest metropolis in Europe, full of appealingly larger-than-life characters. It is only a glimpse, but it leaves you keen to find out more about the personalities you encounter.

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