Not everyone can afford the massive, multi-volume New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians that appeared, to awe-struck hurrahs, in 1980. So Grove editor Stanley Sadie has created a ""Composer Biography Series""--presenting the (updated) encyclopedia entries for major composers as small books of their own. Here, then, renowned Handel scholar Dean does authoritative summing-up--starting with a dry, fact-crammed 70-page biography, then moving on to slightly more subjective, but disappointingly sketchy, essays: on character and personality (Dean stresses his humor); on style (the Italian influence, a defense of Handel's ""borrowings""); and finally a few pages on each genre of composition--with just a paragraph, for instance, on Messiah--plus closing words on Handel's reputation. (In the 1800s ""this prince of public entertainers, a pantheist and hedonist who loved to depict the sensual pleasures, . . . was by a singular irony transformed into a marble monument of respectability""-a misconception which is still ""not entirely dead."") As with all the volumes in the Composer Biography Series, a comprehensive work-list and extensive bibliography are included as appendices here, making this a valuable source for scholars without access to the complete Grove or other full-blown references. More casual students and listeners, however, will probably prefer livelier (if less austerely definitive) studies--either on a small, introductory scale (like Percy Young's Handel in the Master Musicians series) or in the grand-biographical vein of Paul Henry Lang's recently revised life-and-work.