19–21 November 2021
The Foundling Museum, London and the Bridewell Centre, London
The theme of this conference was prompted by the tercentenary of the Royal Academy opera Muzio Scevola (1721), composed by Amadei (Act I), Bononcini (Act II) and Handel (Act III). The collaboration seems to symbolise ways in which Handel was connected to composers and performers in Germany, Italy and England. Harpsichord arrangements of movements from the opera were played by Bridget Cunningham in an opening harpsichord recital. A context for Muzio Scevola was provided by a paper on Bononcini’s earlier settings of the story, and new light was cast on Handel, between opera and oratorio, by a study of Alcina that highlighted many influences (not only Ariosto) on the libretto. Some of Handel’s early keyboard music, a private genre, was shown to reflect the Italian ritornello style, while his open-air Water Music and Fireworks Music conveyed a political message to a much wider public. Messiah loomed large, prompting a manuscript study, analyses of Handel’s biblical texts and word-setting, investigations into performers at the Foundling Hospital and in London’s East End, and discussions of ‘scratch’ performances and period-instrument recordings. In London Handel exerted little influence, even in oratorio, on his successor Johann Christian Bach, but in Vienna he was revered by both Mozart and Beethoven. Some forty participants from six countries, including the USA, attended this real-life conference, one of the first of its kind in the previous two years.