Page:Romain Rolland Handel.djvu/56

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on the cards that he should pass through Paris.[1] Handel had familiarised himself with the French language.[2] He showed, as it happened, a singular attraction for the most beautiful subjects of our French tragedy.[3] With his prodigious adaptability, and his Latin qualities, the clarity of his lines, his eloquence, logic, and his passionate love for form, he would have rejoiced exceedingly in assimilating the tradition of our art, and taking it up with an irresistible vigour.[4] But at Venice, whilst he was still hesitating what to do, he encountered the

  1. There was so much probability of this that he tried his hand on the French vocal style by writing seven French songs, of which the manuscript was carefully revised by him, for the sheets contain evidences of a close revision in pencil. How changed things would have been there if he had really come and settled in the interregnum between Lully and Rameau. He had that quality which none of the French musicians possessed—a superabundance of music, and he had not that which they had got—lucid intelligence and a penetration into the true need of the musical drama and its possibilities. (It was at that time that Lecerf de la Vieville wrote his Comparaison de la musique française et de la musique italienne, of which certain pages forestall the musical creed of Gluck.) If Handel had come to France, I am convinced that that reform would have been brought about sixty years sooner, and with a wealth of music which Gluck never possessed.
  2. It is the language which he used in his correspondence, even with his own family, and his style, always very correct, had the fine courtesy of the court of Louis XIV.
  3. Esther, Athalie, Theodore, Vierge d'Martyre.
  4. Even in 1734 Séré de Rieux wrote of Handel: "His composition, infinitely clever and gracious, seems to approach nearer to our taste than any other in Europe" (p. 29 of Enfants de Latone, poems dedicated to the King). Handel particularly pleased the French because his Italianism was always restrained by reason, and French musicians loved to think that logic was totally French.

         "Son caractère fort, nouveau, brillant, égal,
          Du sens judicieux suit la constante trace,
          Et ne s'arme jamais d'une insolente audace."
                                            Ibid. (pp. 102–3.)