Robarts, Leslie Michael Martyn (2008)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This thesis recovers the wordbooks for Handel’s oratorios from their neglect in literary and musical history. Taking Joseph and his Brethren and Hercules as samples, it shows the essential place of wordbooks in the original oratorio experience and challenges an editorial and performance practice which favours music over words. Chapter One presents editions of the wordbooks of Joseph and Hercules in order to offer a transmissional history, and Chapter Two reclaims the literariness of the librettos and demonstrates their effectiveness. Chapter Three examines the two librettos in the composer’s and copyist’s manuscript musical scores prior to first publication of the wordbooks and reveals verbal changes made during composition of the music. Chapter Four explores the significance of wordbooks for the booksellers of Joseph and Hercules and reconstructs aspects of wordbook production and consumption. Chapter Five identifies the wordbooks’ printer and places wordbook production in the context of book trade regulation and copyright. Chapter Six discusses the material identity of the wordbooks and the design principles which supported their reception. The thesis concludes that access to printed librettos is essential to redress the verbal-musical imbalance in contemporary performances of Handel’s oratorios.
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