Favorite Harmonia Episodes: ‘Handel and the Seven Deadly Sins’

11

November
2010

After five seasons as writer for Harmonia and with over one-hundred and fifty programs produced, there are several episodes that stand out in my mind as having been unusually rewarding to put together. This is one in a series of my favorite Harmonia episodes.

I wanted to write a show on Handel. Simple, right? But, how do you cover one of the most recognizable names in classical music without retracing yours or someone else’s steps? Not so simple.

Something triggered the seven deadly sins idea, yet I can’t remember what. Applying it to Handel seemed easy until I started putting the music together with the appropriate sin. Vocal music—arias and choruses—lent themselves naturally to transgression, or excess of emotion (and behavior).

Quick reminder: the seven deadly sins are Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.

I found pairings for all of them except gluttony and sloth until I realized that Handel was personally guilty of the two—or that a strong argument could be made, in any case. Handel was a known glutton (as Nicholas McGegan recently pointed out) and, since he constantly borrowed or stole other composers musical ideas, he was then guilty of sloth, a serious form of laziness.

I was really happy with the final product andthought that, maybe, the sins could be applied to other Baroque composers.

Listen (click through): Handel and the Seven Deadly Sins

(George Frideric Handel by William Hogarth, Burghley House Collection; photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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