PatchChords: The Death Of Antony, Or The Death Of Handel


Imagine a world without performances of The Messiah, Samson, Jephta, Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. It might have come to pass, were it not for the fortuitous outcome of one deadly duel in 1704.

Instrumentalist, composer, teacher and singer, Johann Mattheson, at age 22, was a fast friend of George Frideric Handel, although, by this time, a certain air of jealous rivalry had developed between them, owing to a long series of circumstances.

Their rivalry came to a head when Mattheson's opera, Cleopatra, premiered in December of 1704. Mattheson himself sang the role of "Antony", and Handel, stepping into the breach when the original conductor proved unavailable, lead the orchestra while seated at the harpsichord. Eventually, Mattheson played his character's glorious death on the stage and then moved over to the orchestra, where it was planned that Handel would yield his seat and conducting duties to Mattheson.

But Handel, his long-simmering jealous resentment boiling over, refused to budge.

Soon, blows were exchanged (to the delight of the audience, no doubt), and the two men took their argument outside, where they faced each other with drawn swords, each of them ready to skewer the other and settle their jealous feud once and for all.

And then…

As Handel's biographer, John Mainwaring wrote, "Mattheson made a push at him with a sword, which, being aimed full at his heart, would for ever have removed him from the office he had usurped, but for the friendly score which he accidentally carried in his bosom; and through which to have forced it, would have demanded all the might of Ajax himself". Another account of the incident suggests that Mattheson's sword hit one of Handel's large brass buttons and was snagged on it.

Standing outside the opera house, the two men ended up laughing and reconciling, and a friendship was restored, not to mention a musical life saved.

And it was all a matter of inches.

More, at the Library, about Handel

Reading Recommendations from the Depths – Installment Numero Cuatro

We have heard that the weather will be especially nice for the last week of August 2017, with pleasant temperatures, sunshine, and low humidity. Alas, fresh air and sunlight is not in the cards for your humble correspondent down in the depths of the library, but he has discovered for you a number of clever titles that have arrived in the latest shipment of books. These five books are kind of a hodge-podge as they don’t really have much in common other than the titles struck me as fairly amusing, but they seem like they might make good reads for the closing days of summer.


First up is Can It & Ferment It: more than 75 satisfying small-batch canning and fermentation recipes for the whole year. Both experienced canners and rank beginners will find good advice in this book, with over 75 all-season recipes for among other things, chutneys, kimchi, and even pickles. From reading the description of this book, I have learned that canners and fermenters are sometimes at  odds with each other. Author Stephanie Thurow attempts to bring them together with advice and recipes that will work for both parties. I must confess that the only canner I really know is Chef Boyardee, but he doesn’t seem to make an appearance in this book.

What would you do if you were a former British Royal Marine who found himself adrift in life feeling bored and disillusioned? If that were me I would probably just try to watch a funny movie on TV or get an ice cream cone. However, if you were Mick Dawson you might try to get together with one of your best mates and attempt to row across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to San Francisco. Lest you think that this was a spur of the moment decision, you should know that Dawson had already twice(!) rowed across the Atlantic Ocean and had also twice made gallant, but unsuccessful, efforts to row solo across the Pacific. Dawson’s new memoir Battling the Oceans in a Rowboat tells the dramatic story of the effort Mick Dawson and his friend Chris Martin made. Did they make it? We’ll let you read the book in order to find out, but suffice to say it’s one exciting story.

I’ll have to admit that I am a fan of cats. So, when I spot a book cover that has a picture with no less than three cats on the cover, I know that I am in the presence of some great literature. Thus I bring to your attention Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. This is the 20th book in the Joe Grey mystery series. Joe Grey, if you have not met him before, is a cat living in the small California coastal town of Molena Point. While Joe may seem like an average, everyday cat, he does have a special talent. He’s great at helping to solve mysteries. Many times he’s better at it than the local Molena Point police. Since Joe does not speak English, he has to make his sleuthing skills visible in other clever ways. In this book, Joe has just become a father to three rambunctious kittens. When Joe stumbles upon a murder in a local hair salon he doesn’t realize his kids are following him inside, and this puts them in great danger. Can Joe, along with his lady cat friend, Dulcie, solve the mystery while protecting his kittens from grave danger? The book will tell you! I’ll add that I generally believe that all cats shine bright. The only exception would have to be the cat my best friend in elementary school had. The only person that cat liked was my friend’s mother. Everyone else, he would hiss at and try to scratch. What he was angry at all the time I’ll never know. He would always hang out in my friend’s basement where we would all want to go to play and he made playtime miserable for everyone. I’ll have to admit that cat was one nasty critter.

I also noticed All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco. This book only has one cat on the cover, but it still seems like  a fun read. The second title in the Zodiac Mystery series,  the first being The Madness of Mercury. San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti sees ominous signs in the stars for her friend Geneva Leary’s upcoming wedding day. But Julia is a bridesmaid and she doesn’t want to ruin her friend’s special day. Julia never expected murder though. Can Julia’s astrological skills help her uncover some dark Leary family secrets and perhaps catch a killer?

To end my report I do want to say that I hope that the last title on my recommendations list does not portend the future. It’s an event that would really ruin Labor Day weekend. But I must mention the Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter. This is an officially authorized sequel to H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The action in Baxter’s book takes place 14 years after the events in Wells’ book. Everyone thinks that the Martians have been beaten and the world has moved on. But what if the first Martian invasion was only a practice run? What if the Martians have learned from their mistakes and this time they are coming back to get the job done right? People who recognize the true Martian danger are few and far between, and mostly ignored or laughed at. But, Walter Jenkins, the original narrator of Well’s book, is one of those few. He knows how much trouble Earth and mankind is in, and he is racing to make sure everyone else learns the truth fast.

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