The Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers
Paperback - 192 pages (December 1995), usually ships within 2-3 days.
From Kirkus Reviews , July 1, 1993
A joyous but far from superficial paean to Handel's beloved masterwork. Only very
occasionally does there appear a book about great music that doesn't wind up
somehow diminishing the music itself. This is such a book. Luckett, the librarian at
Magdalene College, Cambridge, modestly disclaims breaking any new scholarly ground,
but the wealth of erudition that illuminates his description of the backdrop (musical and
social), composition, and performance history of Messiah is truly impressive. All the
familiar material is here, and a good deal more besides. Even the more quirky references
(e.g., Dr. Johnson's patronizing remarks about Dublin, which heard the first performance
in 1742) add to the superb texture. And the writing is beyond praise: Describing
Handel's retreat from opera to the new form of oratorio, Luckett articulates the
difficulties of saying farewell to ``...the irrational element, the pull of opera for its own
ephemeral sake, the love affair that persists despite and because of the sweat and the
greasepaint, the squalls and squalor, the cliques and cabals, for the sake of that one
shudder of the realized dream.'' By the time that the aging, financially beleaguered
master combines his earthy sense of rhythm and melody with a lifetime of musical
learning to create his immortal treatment of the most sacred of religious subjects, the
reader understands what makes ``classical'' music a living as well as lively art.
Moreover, Luckett, going past Handel's death, provides a smart, wry history of
emendations, ``improvements,'' and performances up almost to our own day. A book
worthy of its subject and its subtitle, and one that deserves far more than a specialist
readership. A Handelian home run.
-- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.