Howard Serwer taught at the University of Maryland, was one of the founders of the American Handel Society, and the author of many scholarly papers on music and composers of the Baroque Era, and was especially focused on Handel. He died in 2000 and this book was put together in his honor. The editor is Richard G. King who is an associate professor of musicology at the University of Maryland.
The book offers high quality papers in two sections. The first section contains ten papers representing recent research on Handel. I was fascinated by each of them. As just three examples:
Terence Best takes us through the surprisingly complex issues surrounding the efforts to get a complete edition of the composer's works. If you ever thought such a project would be simple, this article will disabuse you of that. What is especially surprising about this is that Handel was one of the most famous composers in the world both in his time and for generations afterwards. While J.S. Bach has eclipsed him for the past century and a half, that was not the case in his lifetime through at least Beethoven and on until Mendelssohn began the Bach revival.
The paper by Ruth Smith on "Jephtha" is fascinating not only for what she shows us about the subtleties in the oratorio, but also because she shows us how it presented arguments for theological issues between an orthodox Christianity, Diestic views, and even those skeptical of religion.
Annette Landgraf shows us how Handel's oratorios were picked up and transformed by the rise of the choral societies in Germany and how that fed back to the English speaking musical world.
The second half presents select papers from the Maryland Handel Festivals from 1981 through 2001 with several by Howard Serwer himself. All of these are informative and will provide you with insight and broaden your understanding of the composer, his works, and the time in which he lived, composed, and performed. I loved the papers on "Messiah" and its performance practices.
The book concludes with a list of Howard Serwer's writings.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI