What is the course about?
Several of Handel’s 20+ oratorios have remained in regular performance since his death over 250 years ago. In recent years there has been a concerted effort to study and perform his 40+ operas several of which have now joined mainstream repertoire in opera houses around the world. This course focuses on the late oratorios from 1743 onwards and compares them to Handel’s operatic style to trace key differences in dramatic focus and, especially, the role of the chorus. It also considers some of the recent research by leading Handel scholars and contrasts it to older Handelian biography and scholarship.
In the course we will look at some printed musical scores and manuscripts but you do not have to be able to read music notation to enjoy the course, you may choose to follow the libretto (words) instead of the music if you choose. Please note, this course does not consider Messiah.
What will we cover?
- Selected Handel's oratorios including: Samson, Judas Maccabaeus, Solomon, Theodora, Jeptha and The Triumph of Time and Truth.
- Handel’s biography with a focus on 1743-1757
- Source readings relevant to the chose repertoire (newspapers, letters etc…)
- Developments in Handel's musical / dramatic style
- The role of the chorus (with reference to Ralphe Locke’s scholarship on musical exoticism)
- Social, political and religious context of Handel's compositions (with reference to scholarship by Ruth Smith).
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Understand the elements of Handelian oratorio
- Relate the oratorios to key developments in English social culture
- Make a more informed assessment of Handel's musical achievements.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No prior knowledge of the subject is required. You do not need to read music to take this course (although we will look at music notation for time-to-time). You will be asked to do some reading in class and between session.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Tutor presentation and explanation, including handouts
Guided listening and watching of audio and audio-visual examples
Class discussion and debate
Listening and reading outside class is encouraged and once enrolled further online resources will be available.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You will need to bring a pen/pencil and a folder to keep your notes and handouts organised. You may also wish to purchase some of the music books or recordings discussed in class, links to these materials will be available online after each session.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
To find out more about music history classes and to read our year-long selection of courses, please see the blog post Music history: your guide to the 2019/20 programme which lists our full programme of classes ordered by term, and by day of the week. You may then click on each title to read the full course outline.