Handel after Handel: The Making, Lasting Fame and Influence of Handel and the Handelian Figure Back

Scientific Committee: Prof. Michael Burden, New College, Oxford; Prof. Pierre Degott, Université de Metz: Prof. Pierre Dubois, Université de Tours; Prof. Albert Gier, Universität Bamberg; Dr. Sylvie Lemoël, Université de Tours; Prof. Laurine Quetin, Université de Tours


Throughout the 18th century, George Frederick Handel was the dominant musical figure in England. Although born in Germany, Handel soon became the official ‘national composer.’ His unflinching domination over the English musical scene of the period was multifaceted: while it can be explained in terms of the support granted him by the nation’s elite as well as by his obvious commercial astuteness and consequent success, it eventually led to his style becoming the absolute reference other English composers had both to emulate and to measure up to. His contribution as both a major Italian opera composer and then the ‘founding father’ of the English oratorio, associated as it was with the symbolic image of the organ and his own performance as a dazzling keyboard player and improviser, made of him the prototype of the pre-romantic ‘natural genius.’
After his death, his first biographer, John Mainwaring (Memoirs of the Life of the Late G.F.Handel, 1760) contributed greatly to the fashioning of that image, which led to a lasting cult of the composer’s figure and works. A large body of publications – books, articles, poems – was devoted to Handel both in his lifetime and for decades after his death. The Great Handel Commemoration organised at Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon of 1784, and followed by similar events in the following years, presented Handel as the very embodiment of the national character and used his work and image in an ideological patriotic construct to celebrate the greatness of the British nation. The music festivals organised in the provinces in the 18th century as well as the great musical and patriotic celebrations staged in the newly-built Town-Halls in the 19th century testified to the fact that the influence of Handel lasted well beyond his own demise and even after his own music had become stylistically old-fashioned and his works had ceased being performed in their original form.

The aim of the conference is consequently to envisage the ‘resonance,’ influence and lasting fame of the figure and work of Handel both during his lifetime and beyond, in a diachronic and interdisciplinary perspective.