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David Ross Hurley

Handel's Muse

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Handel's Muse:
Patterns of Creation in His Oratorios and Musical Dramas, 1743-1751

Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, © 2001

Hurley's mentors were Ellen Harris and Howard Mayer Brown, and his publications include two fine articles on Handel. Originally Hurley's PhD thesis, this impressive piece of scholarship rests comfortably on a generous-spirited, thorough knowledge of the relevant literature. It nicely fills a vacuum: although the compositional processes of many baroque and early classical composers have been extensively studied, there is little recent scholarship of this kind on Handel, despite the ready availability of both his autographs, full of corrections and revisions, and contemporary conducting scores prepared for performances. By examining six oratorios written between 1743 and 1751 (Semele to Jephtha), Hurley (Pittsburgh [sic.] State Univ.) provides sensible, perceptive analyses of how Handel actually wrote his scores--which parts were written first, which later--and offers ideas as to how these methods reflect forethought as distinct from spontaneity and practical, performance-inspired necessities (e.g., specific singers). The author discusses Handel's interest in texts, form, dramatic effect, harmonic and melodic structure, overall continuity within arias and choruses, and much more, comparing Handel's compositional techniques to others', especially Bach's. And he relates everything to Handel's overall genius for producing viable musical drama. Ample, helpful scholarly apparatus; generally clear and nicely pointed prose. Excellent! and self-recommending to all interested upper-division students and scholars.

-- W. Metcalfe, emeritus, University of Vermont

- Hurley, David Ross. Handel's muse: patterns of creation in his oratorios and musical dramas.
Oxford, 2001. 288p bibl indexes afp ISBN 0-19-816396-7, $65.00.
Reviewed in 2001nov CHOICE. (Choice 39-1472)

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