Photographs in Words 28 – Resurrection

Handel was dancing to a piece of music which had never been composed nor ever would be. At the other end of the room was the angel of death. He too was dancing. Handel was tiring. The angel of death helped him lie on the sofa. There was now calm on Handel’s face and in the room. The angel slowly left.

George Frederic Handel had this dream just before he suffered a stroke at the age of fifty-two. After four months lying in bed, showing no signs of life, he made a miraculous recovery and started composing again with his old, tremendous passion. But the Queen’s death, wars, and a severe winter which froze the River Thames, left the concert halls empty. Faced with the pressure of creditors’ demands, Handel’s debts piled up once more… “All over again. My God, why have you abandoned me?”

Helpless and hopeless, he wandered the streets, choosing the hours of darkness to avoid scornful eyes. One evening, he stood for a long time by the Thames, looking at the river and spent that night under a plane tree in the most secluded corner of Green Park. As he walked through St. James’s Street back to Brook Street, where he lived, the rain poured down, heavy as tears.

In his study, on his desk which had long been empty, was a bundle of papers. At first, he did not even glance at it. Then, he caught sight of the title of its first page: “Messiah”. It was the libretto of an oratorio sent by Charles Jennens. It began with the words “Comfort ye”. Comfort ye! What a beautiful beginning…“He was despised”. It brought back the feeling of being scorned. But, then “Lift up your heads” and “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

George Frederic Handel composed the Messiah in three months, without leaving his rooms. Its first performance was held in Dublin, far away from London, with Handel conducting the orchestra and playing the organ, to a very large audience who seemed to hold their breath as they listened. Messiah was performed in London every year during his life time with the takings donated to those in need of comfort.

Based on Stefan Zweig, Yeniden Hayata Dönüş (The Resurrection of George Frederic Hande), Yıldızın Parladığı Anlar ( Decisive Moments in History), Türkiye İş Bankası, Ankara. Other sources: The World of Music, An Illustrated Encyclopedia, New York,1963. Messiah, The English Concert and Choir, Archiv Production, London, 1988.

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