Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

<<  -- 3 --  Wilfrid Mellers    SECOND SIGHT

-------------------------------

Naturally, the 'negative' forces come into their own as Beauty and Pleasure reluctantly capitulate: until the ultimate moment of truth arrives in a freely canonic duet between Tempo and Disinganno, wherein chromatic deliquescences are partially annealed by a rigidly tragic pulse. Yet the end of the oratorio does not resolve the tussle between the human and the divine. When Pleasure abandons the 'converted' Beauty she does so in a staggering  coloratura aria 'Come nembo che fu con ventro' that is even more wildly distraught, but also desperately triumphant, than her big numbers in Part I; and although Beauty's final aria, addressed to 'Pure del Cielo', is grave and gracious and unexpectedly in 'heavenly' E major, it does not, in healing discord, obliterate human suffering. Perhaps Beauty is now wiser, even stronger, but happier she is not, and we still admire -- simultaneously wonder at and respect -- Pleasure's crazy courage no less than Beauty's pious fortitude.

The oratorio's statement of the joyous agony of being human tells us why Handel valued it so much -- to the extent of reviving it in an English version in 1737, when heroic opera in London was at a low ebb. Furthermore, in the penultimate year of his life, 1757, half-a-century after its first performance, Handel made a new version, dictated to his amanuensis Christopher Smith, and now called simply 'The Triumph of Time and Truth', with a book by his regular oratorio librettist, Thomas Morrell. Come to think of it, this simpler but more sublime title could be applied to most of Handel's humanistically theatrical music, created over his busy working life; he was, with Mozart, the supreme humanist of European music.

Copyright © 29 July 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK

 

-------

CD INFORMATION - OPUS 111 OP 30321

PURCHASE THIS CD FROM CROTCHET

PURCHASE THIS CD FROM AMAZON

 

 << Music & Vision home           Occasional Songs >>