SITE RATING: 10/10
REVIEW: Dr. Robert
Manson Myers' 1948 examination of Handel's
Messiah is a pure pleasure to read.
Myers - who taught English at Yale
University, the College of William and Mary,
Tulane University, and the University of
Maryland, before retiring in 1986, was a
Fulbright scholar at the University of London,
and he won the prestigious National Book Award
in 1973 for "The Children of Pride." In
this early work, Myers command of writing and
persuasion are already in full bloom, and, as
befits his credentials, and A Touchstone Of
Taste captures his self-professed
"Anglophile" passion with convincing force.
Not simply a historical or musicological
study of Messiah,
the book is an examination of the power of Messiah,
both in creating controversy, and in its
ability to inspire passion in a vast audience.
He quotes extensively from private
letters, newspaper advertisements, journals,
and other germane sources to lead the reader
through the years, beginning with Handel's
critical splash on the London scene with his
Italianate opera Rinaldo, and following
Messiah's various major performances through
the beginning of the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Myers is particularly fond of quoting
the reactions of leading lights of the times
of which he's writing - so we get reactions
from Samuel Butler, George Bernard Shaw,
George Eliot, Sir Walter Scott, Julie Ward
Howe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sir Arthur
Sullivan, and even examines Adolph Hitler's
"Aryanization" of Handel's Israel In Egypt
Maccabeus! It's a fascinating
survey of popular thought through the ages,
and I found both the approach, and Myers'
writing, to be masterful.