Handel and the Jews

Marion Lignana Rosenberg considers the theological underpinnings of George Frideric Handel’s music:

The sheer number of oratorios that George Frideric Handel wrote on Jewish subjects, including “Solomon,” “Esther,” “Joseph,” “Saul,” and “Judas Maccabeus,” has long led critics to suppose that he was a stout friend to the Children of Israel, and that London Jews were key patrons of his music. More recent scholarship suggests that Handel’s purported empathy with the Jewish people was invoked to prop up “the sacredness of his works” (too steeped in the profane funk of the theater), and that the enthusiasm of 18th-century Jews for Handel may have been overstated to assuage doubts about Jews as loyal British subjects.

You can read more by Rosenberg at The Forward. To learn more about Handel (and Christian-era attitude toward Jewish music more generally) see Ruth HaCohen’s fascinating book, The Music Libel Against the Jews.