Photo: Pete Reed
George Frideric Handel
Handel’s Acis and Galatea, the “little opera” as he called it, was hugely popular in his day. The mythological love triangle between Acis, Galatea, and Polyphemus, was set to music by many baroque composers, but Handel’s was different because he returned to it at different points throughout his lifetime (setting it initially in Italian and then in English). However, it was the English version, premiered in 1718, which was, by far, the more famous.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
In 1788, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart received a commission from Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who requested that he make an arrangement of Handel’s Acis and Galatea. Mozart not only used a German translation by van Swieten, but set about expanding and adapting the orchestration, as well adding music from Handel’s Concerti Grossi. The work that came out of Mozart’s task, the first of four Swieten-Handel commissions, retained quite a bit of its baroque character, yet was unmistakably of the Classical Era.
In 2005, a manuscript of a Mendelssohn work was acquired by the Handel Society in Göttingen, Germany, which turned out to be something that few people knew existed. It was copy of an arrangement of Acis and Galatea by Felix Mendelssohn, who in 1728 created the work using a translation by his sister Fanny. And like Mozart, Mendelssohn not only greatly expanded Handel’s modest composition, but gave it a distinctively Romantic touch.