Contemporarily Handel composed
Dryden’s Famous Odes for St. Cecilia
1736 Alexander’s Feast, or The Power of Musick
and to the Saint’s Day 1739 the Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day
as Tributes to
The Patroness of Music
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). S. Cæcilia. Three-quarter figure of Saint Cecilia, looking at the beholder, in rich garment and turban-like head-dress, here with the harp as rarer attribute, adorned with martyr’s palm leaf & the head of an angel. Beside her an almost unclothed sympathetic young angel reading the notes. Mezzotint engraving. Inscribed: Ioh. El. Ridinger excud. A. V., otherwise as above within a large shell-cartouche in the lower margin. 20⅛ × 15¼ in (51.2 × 38.8 cm).
Stillfried (1876) 1420. – Not in Thienemann (1856) and with the exception of Counts of Faber-Castell (1958) here not provable elsewhere either. – Size variant unbeknownst to Schwarz (Collection Baron von Gutmann, 1910) who in doubt about the – by the one here now confirmed – size stated by Stillfried in the 3rd appendix to Thienemann queries his copy of 24¼ × 19½ in (61.5 × 49.5 cm) listed under the same number. – Tipped of old at the corners on especially wide-margined heavy laid paper touched by browning at two of the far edges. – With fine little paper margin throughout below and intermitted here and there at the sides, above trimmed to platemark.
The rich sheet in rarer composition
in the excellent copy regarding printing and conservation
of a cultivated collection of in all parts nuanced, shining chiaroscuro. And in such a manner of quite extraordinary rarity not only on the market as quoted above, but in general, too. Already in 1675 the expert von Sandrart numbered “clean prints” of the velvety mezzotint manner at only c. “50 or 60” (!). “Soon after (the picture) grinds off for it not goes deeply into the copper.” Correspondingly then Thienemann in 1856:
“ The mezzotints are almost not to be acquired in the trade anymore …
and most of them I found in the Dresden printroom alone. ”
Not even there
then yet the one present here
becoming known and described for the very first time
only 20 years later by Count Stillfried !
Especially in the 17th and 18th century celebrated as “Feast Day of Music” with divine services and specifically composed concerts, November 22 is dedicated to the ecclesiastical memory of this noble Roman of the 3rd century. So also George Frederick Handel set John Dryden’s (1631-1700) Song for St. Cecilia’s Day from 1687, considered a masterpiece of English poetry, in music for the celebrations of 1739. And moreover combined the premiere of this Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day at the London Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre with a new performance of the almost four years older oratorio Alexander’s Feast as setting of Dryden’s Alexander’s Feast – or the Power of Musick –; an Ode wrote in Honour of St. Cecilia of 1692, published in turn to St. Cecilia’s Day 1697.
Dramatizing the episode on the banquet after the conquest of Persepolis 330 BC delivered to posterity by Plutarch, when Timotheus induces Alexander the Great by song and music to exact revenge on the defeated Persians by burning the city down. Yet ultimately culminating in the praise of Cecilia: indeed the pre-Christian bard could raise a mortal to the skies, but drawing down an angel was reserved for divine Cecilia, extending the hitherto musical limitations:
Enlarg’d the former narrow bounds,
And added length to solemn sounds,
With Nature’s mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
Or both divide the crown;
He rais’d a mortal to the skies,
She drew an angel down.
Having been made inventress of the organ by the legend, she is throughout the year and beyond the confessions the patroness of music, in particular of sacred music. And still in 1942 Benjamin Britten venerated her anew by the Hymn to St. Cecilia. Here then
WITH THE RARER ATTRIBUTE OF THE HARP
as at the same time that hitherto uncommon musical instrument Handel introduced in Alexander’s Feast. Just as the lute in the Ode.
St. Cecilia besides belonging to that “exclusive communion of divine intervenients – or, stated Protestantly, divine representatives – ” which quite topically, though “already for a longer while historians have rediscovered (for themselves) … (and) revived scientifically” (Peter Burschel reviewing Brad Stephan Gregory’s Salvation at Stake — Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe in the FAZ of August 2, 2000).
Offer no. 28,402 / EUR 1738. / export price EUR 1651. (c. US$ 1988.) + shipping
„ Greetings from your Italian friend and Beethoven collector … Please inform me … “
(Sign. L. B., December 10, 2005)