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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 14:37 GMT
Lost Handel set for modern debut
Messiah choir
A choir rehearse Handel's most famous work Messiah
An unusual work by Handel has been discovered by a German scholar in the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Professor Hans Joachim Marx of Hamburg University found the work as he trawled through the library of the Royal Academy.

The piece - Gloria in Excelsis Deo - is unusual because it is for solo soprano.

It's a very florid, very ornate work. It is also a very difficult work by today's standards

Italian Baroque scholar Professor Michael Talbot

"All the other Gloria settings from the time that I know are in fact choral works," said Professor Michael Talbot, a specialist in Italian baroque music at Liverpool University.

The discovery was made a while ago but it has taken some time to make sure the manuscript is actually a Handel piece.

As to its authenticity, Professor Talbot told the BBC: "I'm pretty convinced."

The seven movement work for soprano and strings is thought to have been composed in Rome in 1707, when the composer was about 21 years old.


"It's a very florid, very ornate work. It is also a very difficult work by today's standards," said Professor Talbot.

Though it is not documented that Handel ever wrote a Gloria, the piece is likely to have been performed, since as Professor Talbot points out, composers worked mainly to commission at that time.

But he said that because of the difficulty of the piece: "Only a dozen or so sopranos could do it credit."

Among them he named Anne-Sofie Von Otter and Emma Kirkby as possible choices.

Anne-Sofie Von Otter
Anne-Sofie Von Otter: One of a dozen sopranos who could "do it credit"
At the Royal Academy of Music musicians and a soprano are working on the piece under conductor Nicholas McGegan and they will perform extracts of it at a private performance on Thursday.

The piece will get its first full public performance at the International Handel Gottingen Festival 2000 on 3 June.

The BBC will be recording the work for broadcast in July.

Changing tastes

Handel was born in 1685 in Halle, Germany but spent many years in London where he was the Royal Family's favourite composer.

In 1726, Handel officially became a British citizen, but he later fell from favour due to changing tastes in music.

As a consequence his Messiah was premiered in Dublin in 1742.

But he later regained his popularity and in April 1759 more than 3000 people gathered for his funeral in Westminster Abbey, London.

Professor Talbot is not surprised that even a work by such an illustrious composer was not discovered until now.

He told the BBC that many such works "are known to exist" but languish unnoticed until somebody starts the long process of authenticating them.

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