- George Frideric Handel: Collected Documents ed. by Donald Burrows et. al.
George Frideric Handel: Collected Documents (HCD), of which the first volume (1609–1725) appeared in April 2014, is a comprehensive collection of documents from contemporaneous sources relating to Handel’s life and work. Of the planned five volumes, the second (1725–1734), reviewed below, appeared in 2015. The third volume (1734–1742) is, as of this writing, slated for publication in January 2017. The research project under the direction of Donald Burrows, based at The Open University’s London Regional Centre in Camden Town, dates back to 2007.
Until 2014, the principal reference work was the fourth volume of Händel-Handbuch (HHb), dedicated to documents covering Handel’s entire life, and published in German (ed. Walter Eisen and Margret Eisen [Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1985]). It extracted data from primary sources collected by Otto Erich Deutsch (Handel: A Documentary Biography [London: A. and C. Black, 1955]), plus some additional materials, together with the German texts of Deutsch’s commentaries. Since 1985, however, original research as well as secondary literature on Handel has grown enormously (see, for example, Mary Ann Parker, G. F. Handel: A Guide to Research [Oxford: Routledge, 2013]). To name some notable examples: the work of Ursula Kirkendale (first in 1967) in the Marquis Francesco Maria Ruspoli archive as well as later in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano, both of which redefined Handel’s Italian years (“Handel with Ruspoli: New Documents from the Archivio Segreto Vaticano, December 1706 to December 1708,” Studi Musicali 32, no. 2 : 301–48); and the complete documentation on the composer’s financial activities that comes from the Bank of England archive, online since 2012. (The HCD fifth volume will also have two tabular appendices related to Handel’s investments and bank accounts plus his payments of parish rates on his London residence).
The HCD returns to the original sources, collects and organizes material discovered during the last fifty years, and presents the documents chronologically in the original languages with English translation as needed and a commentary. Transcriptions of documents are diplomatic (true to the original) and provided in full, not just as summaries. Also included is a detailed opera calendar at the opening of each chapter. Compared to Deutsch, some documents that were only listed in HHb are now fully accessible. For example, as minor a document as the burial record of Michael Dietrich Michaelsen’s second wife (the first one was Handel’s elder sister, Dorothea Sophia) is now presented in its entirety. HHb records the source (Journals of the House of Lords) for when Handel first applied for naturalization (13 February 1727), but only HCD gives a complete transcription for the documents relevant to the entire application procedure (pp. 101–6), with a concise commentary on each document. The critical work helps the reader to locate effortlessly the sources found in archives and libraries in Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.
HCD presents a large number of different materials that are not included in HHb: both manuscript sources of a private nature, such as diaries (Antonio Cocchi and Gertrude Savile) and letters (Giuseppe Riva), as well as public sources, such as legal, financial, and ecclesiastical records, and even court documents (i.e., the private expenses of George I and English court payments). Printed sources primarily include newspapers, weekly papers from London, provincial British cities, and abroad (e.g., The Post-Boy, The Daily Post, Hamburger Relations-Courier), and advertisements for theater and concert performances. If one compares HHb and the new HCD (for example) in the period January–February 1732, the former has just twenty-one entries and the latter fifty-four. These growing areas are not explained by massive new discoveries of documents, but by diverse approaches to gathering them. The aim of this new collection is different from Deutsch’s: far beyond just the assembly of material for...