Handel and his Italian Patrons
For Radio 3's Baroque Spring, Composer of the Week chooses four of the most well-loved Baroque composers - JS Bach, Vivaldi, Purcell and starting this week with Handel. Though Saxon by birth, Handel is often claimed by the English as one of their own. But during his early 20s, before England was even a glint in his eye, he spent a spell of three-and-a-half years, from summer 1706 to early 1710, travelling the patchwork of states we now know as Italy. He certainly chose an 'interesting' time to go; the War of the Spanish Succession was in full swing, and its reverberations were felt the length and breadth of the Italian peninsula. For most of the period he was based in Rome, but he also visited Florence, Naples and Venice, fulfilling major commissions in each city. All this week, Donald Macleod charts the composer's Italian progress, with the help of novelist, biographer and avid Handelian, Jonathan Keates.
Handel's networking skills were almost on a level with his compositional prowess, and wherever he went, he seemed effortlessly to ally himself with the most powerful and influential cultural gatekeepers of the day. So today's programme focuses on Handel's Italian patrons - princes, marquises, cardinals, duchesses - all dazzled by the brilliance of the man they knew as Il caro Sassone - the dear Saxon.