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Handel: Alexander’s Feast

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: music moves us…

Ever since the time of the earliest historical writings on music, people have been concerned with music’s ability to influence people’s behavior.

Alexander’s Feast” originated as a famous ode, written by John Dryden, celebrating music’s power in commemoration of St. Cecilia’s Day.

Cecilia, the patron saint of music, might not have looked too happily upon how her art was used in the poem.

As Alexander the Great dines in the captured Persian city of Persepolis, he is entertained by his court musician Timotheus, who alternately moves him to joy, sorrow, and anger—so much so that he burns down Persepolis!

George Frideric Handel’s oratorio, one of his first English-language works in this form, took its text not directly from Dryden, but from an oratorio-ized adaptation by contemporary poet Newburgh Hamilton.

Music Heard On This Episode

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759): Alexander’s Feast: War, he sung, is toil and trouble
Emma Kirby, s.; Christopher Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music — Handel, Arne, Lampe: Arias - Emma Kirkby Sings Mrs. Arne (Polygram Records, 1993)
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album cover
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759): Alexander’s Feast: War, he sung, is toil and trouble
Emma Kirby, s.; Christopher Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music — Handel, Arne, Lampe: Arias - Emma Kirkby Sings Mrs. Arne (Polygram Records, 1993)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

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