From the first biography of Handel by John Mainwaring (Memoirs of the Life of the Late G.F.Handel, 1760) to the most recent one published in France (Marc Belissa, Haendel en son temps, 2011), the life of G.F. Handel has always been the object of intensive research and it has spawned numerous publications, with no fewer than 60-odd biographies in English, French and German. However, the way Handel’s life is narrated has never ceased evolving. The biographers’ discourse follows different paths in the course of time. Early biographies were instrumental in founding the Handelian myth grounded in the theory of the sublime and the new conception of ‘natural genius’ and they paved the way for a strongly patriotic discourse that lasted throughout the nineteenth century. More recent works, on the other hand, have tried to reassess factual information and to remain more ‘objective.’ The paper outlines this evolution and takes four specific issues as cases in point – the question of the religious dimension of Handel’s work; the question of Handel’s ‘gross faults’ and borrowings; the ‘national’ question and the question of ‘authentic’ performance. On these four separate issues, the various biographers of Handel prove to have been of varying opinions. Thus, the chronological re-writing of Handel’s biography tells us as much about the perception of his art in each period as it does about the man and his work themselves. There are indeed many ‘Handels after Handel’, each of them echoing, and corresponding to the priorities and beliefs of each succeeding age.
Haendel après Haendel :
Construction, renommée, influence de Haendel et de la figure haendélienne
ICD, Université François-Rabelais, Tours
The Changing Faces of Handelian Historiography