Happy 331st birthday, George Frideric Handel!


tim120Always a pleasure to hear from our friend, the Los Angeles poet (and Stanford alum) Timothy Steele. Today he celebrates the birthday of Handel – a passion we both share, apparently. We’ve posted Tim’s birthday announcements here and here and here and here. Here’s what he had to say about the great composer:

Like many composers, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) sometimes found himself at odds with those who performed his music. On occasion, exasperation got the better of him, as in his collaboration with the gifted but capricious soprano Francesca Cuzzoni. One day during rehearsals at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket for Handel’s opera Ottone, she announced she didn’t like the “Falsa imagine” aria and told him to write another in its place. Handel seized her around the waist and swore he’d throw her out the window unless she sang what he’d written. (She did, and the aria became one of her signature hits.)


He kept his temper … usually…

Usually, however, Handel kept his temper and bore his trials with ironical wit. When, prior to the opening of “Flavio,” the tenor Alexander Gordon objected to Handel’s harpsichord accompaniment and threatened to jump up into the instrument and smash it, Handel replied that he liked that idea and that they should use it in advertising the show, since more people would come to see Gordon jump than to hear him sing. On another occasion, Handel conducted a concert in Dublin featuring the violin virtuoso Matthew Dubourg. During one number, DuBourg tore off on a wild rambling solo. When he concluded, Handel, who had been marking time with orchestra, cheerily called out, “Welcome home, Mr. DuBourg!”

Welcome home, Mr. Handel! It’s your 331st birthday!

Above, Philippe Mercier’s portrait of the composer, around age 45, at his (unsmashed) harpsichord. Below, soprano Rosa Mannion’s lovely rendition of “Falsa Imagine” in a modern context.

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