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Second Sight - Music with Wilfrid Mellers

6. Resuscitation.
Enthusing over an event in recorded opera

'This tragic music, superbly sung by Dorothea Röschmann,
pierces to the heart's core ...'

 

Not long ago, discussing Handel's opera seria 'Silla', I described Handel as the greatest composer of works in that once formidable genre. Nowadays, that judgement would be generally supported, but it wasn't universally valid in Handel's day. When opera seria fell into oblivion, many fine composers dedicated to it were almost totally forgotten, whereas Handel survived because of the multiplicity of his gifts. During the heyday of the classical baroque, Alessandro Scarlatti was esteemed for his operas no less than was Handel, while in Handel's native Germany Reinhard Keiser was even more fanatically fêted. Johann Mattheson, no slouch as a composer, music theorist and impresario, described Keiser -- admittedly in an obituary notice -- as 'the greatest opera composer in the world', and in a biographical compendium to then contemporary music, bluntly presented him as 'le premier homme du monde!'

Today, we know little about Keiser, and hear almost nothing of his music, mostly because he remained faithful to an art of music-theatre that, encouraging the myth that man had taken over God's place, was pitifully subject to fashion's ephemerality. Yet although it's unlikely that Keiser can rival Handel's plenitude, he was undoubtedly a composer of exceptional talents, bolstered by experience, since he composed more than a hundred heroic operas, as compared with Handel's sixty-plus!

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Copyright © 14 April 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK

 

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CD INFORMATION - HARMONIA MUNDI HM 901714.16

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