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Handel's Oratorios and Eighteenth-Century Thought


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  • Date Published: October 2005
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521023702

£ 41.99

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About the Authors
  • In this wide-ranging and challenging book, Ruth Smith shows that the words to Handel's oratorios reflect the events and ideas of their time and have far greater meaning than has hitherto been realized. She explores literature, music, aesthetics, politics and religion to reveal Handel's works as conduits for eighteenth-century thought and sensibility. She provides a full picure of Handel's librettists and shows how their oratorio texts express key moral-political preoccupations and engage with contemporary ideological debate. British identity, the need for national unity, the conduct of war, the role of government, the authority of the Bible, the purpose of literature, the effect of art - these and many more concerns are addressed in the librettos. The book thus enriches our understanding of Handel, his times, and the relationships between music and its intellectual contexts.

    • Sheds a new light on Handel's oratorios e.g. Messiah
    • Supplies a missing piece in the jigsaw of eighteenth-century intellectual history
    • Accessible to non-specialists; assumes no academic knowledge and an understanding of music is not necessary
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    • Winner of the 1996 Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, awarded by the British Academy

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Ruth Smith's stimulating and instructive study of Handel's Oratorios and Eighteenth-Century Thought offers a sweeping recontextualization of the repertory for which Handel is best known ... demonstrates the potential rewards of a truly crossdisciplinary study of Handel's oeuvre that takes into account the immensely dynamic world in which he lived. We can hope future studies will, like this one, draw on aesthetics, history, literature, politics, religion, and of course music to explore the full contexts and meanings of Handel's works.' Eighteenth-Century Studies

    '... a wealth of potential meaning is uncovered here which will enrich the work of future scholars.' Early Music Review

    'This is a book which, like the oratorios themselves, will both delight and instruct, bringing a new and fuller understanding of what those extraordinary works meant to their first audiences.' Kenneth Nott Musical Times

    'If ever there was a body of work which needed a fresh look, surely this is it, and this is what Ruth Smith offers in her lively and challenging book.' Musical Times

    '… highly interesting and suggestive book.' British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2005
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521023702
    • length: 500 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 35 mm
    • weight: 0.757kg
    • contains: 4 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. English Origins of English Oratario:
    1. Artistic norms
    2. The purpose of art
    3. Music, morals and religion
    4. The biblical sublime
    5. The survival of the epic
    6. The defence of Christianity
    7. Towards oratorio
    Part II. The Patriot Libretto from the Excise Bill to the Jew Bill: Israelite Oratarios and English Politics:
    8. Political events and political thought
    9. Allegorical politics
    10. Moral politics
    11. Esther to Athalia
    12. In time of war
    13. Images of government
    14. The conflict of public and private interests
    15. Coda: the end of Handel's Israelite oratorios

  • Author

    Ruth Smith


    • Winner of the 1996 Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, awarded by the British Academy

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