Handel goes big

Posted on 29th May 2013 by simonbeattie

This wonderful engraving comes from Charles Burney’s great Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster-Abbey, and the Pantheon, May 26th, 27th, 29th; and June the 3d, and 5th, 1784.  In Commemoration of Handel (1785).  The Handel Commemoration Concerts of 1784, marking the centenary of the composer’s birth, have been described as ‘in some ways the most important single event in the history of English music’ (Mackerness, A Social History of English Music, p. 127).  Certainly the scale of the concerts was unknown at the time, and prepared the way for the large-scale performances of Handel, begun in the nineteenth century, which we all know today.

Burney’s account of the events, which had raised £6000 for the Royal Society of Musicians and £1000 for Westminster Hospital, was published under the supervision of George III himself; it was his suggestions for additional material which led to the large numbers of cancels and, thus, the book’s chaotic pagination.  (It runs pp. vii, [1], xvi, 8, *8, 9–20, *19–*24, 21–56, 21, [6], 26–41, [6], 46–90, [5], 94–139, [3], plus the plates.)

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