How and why the young German musical genius moved to London, where his budding talent blossomed.
Glover (Mozart’s Women: His Family, His Friends, His Music, 2006) is a celebrated veteran conductor (the London Mozart Players and others) and musical authority who has more than 40 years of experience as a musician. She brings all her knowledge and experience to bear in this thorough and revealing work about the prolific and prodigious George Frideric Handel (1685-1759). The author’s approach is steadfastly chronological: She begins with Handel’s birth family (his father was a barber-surgeon) and then advances steadily toward his blindness and death. Although Glover focuses on the composer’s life and music, she devotes large portions of the narrative to the royal politics of his time—Handel was an intimate at the court of George I and II; members of the royal family routinely attended performances of his works and supported him financially—and she keeps us apprised throughout of the cultural and social affairs of the English. Although the author writes for a general readership, she does explore many of his major works—operas, oratorios, occasional music—in considerable detail, explorations that will resonate most clearly with musically sophisticated readers. She also assesses Handel’s personality—his temper, his ferocious work ethic—and his personal life, though there is not much about his love life (he never married). Glover also shows us a prescient, adaptable Handel, an artist sensitive to shifting times and interests. When Londoners’ interest in the Italian opera waned, he turned to oratorios sometimes based on the works of notable English poets, including Dryden Milton. Messiah also gets its due, and the author informs us that there is no evidence for the legend about the king’s standing during “Hallelujah.” Near the end she includes a touching scene: Handel visiting the declining Jonathan Swift.
Lush and illuminating—a lovely structure built on a solid foundation of research, expertise, and affection.