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Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey

Bach and Handel


Some thoughts


Partially prompted by Wilfrid Mellers' review of a new recording of Handel's Time and Truth, I have spent time recalling my Handel experiences, both live and recorded. Whereas it all began years back to my teens when Handel in general was performed in such a grand manner as to be epitomised by the Hallelujah chorus in 'pomp and circumstance' mode, the enlightenment most of us have experienced has crept in over the years without the thud of instant revelation. Nobody can claim a Rip van Winkle experience in such matters, whereas my slowness in comparisons with then and now is not uncommon.

I do not consider it an exaggeration in claiming that the Handel we know today is a more dynamic figure with a distinctive musical personality that distances him from Bach. I certainly recall those musicians who acted on the assumption that Handel was inferior to Bach. The word 'different' was admitted to with some reluctance.

So we are in a period of reconciliation, hopefully, that encourages closer examination of two musical giants who were composing mostly at the same time yet so differently to have brought the world a colossal treasure trove by the time of their deaths. If we assume that we have a grip on our knowledge of this, look, for instance, at Wilfrid Mellers' review of a Swiss recording of Bach's Toccatas for harpsichord. Very few of us can truthfully claim knowledge of these fine works.


Copyright © 30 August 2001 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK


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