David Hunter (PhD '89) scrutinizes biographical exaggeration in new book

The Lives of Handel

A new book by alumnus David Hunter (PhD '89), The Lives of George Frideric Handel, is part biography and part genre case study. The famous composer’s life has been documented in numerous biographies, which Hunter scrutinized to differentiate history from interpretation. His findings led to this new work, which was published recently by Boydell Press.

From the publisher’s description: To evaluate the familiar, even over-familiar, story of Handel's life could be seen as a quixotic endeavour. How can there be anything new to say? This book seeks to distinguish fact from fiction, not only to produce a new biography but also to explore the concepts of biography and dissemination by using Handel's life and lives as a case study. By examining the images of Handel to be found in biographies and music histories—the genius, the religious profound, the independent, the prodigious, the generous, the wealthy, the bankrupt, the pious, the crude, the heroic, the devious—and by adding new factual information, David Hunter shows how events are manipulated into stories and tropes….Picking apart the writing of Handel's biographers and other reporters, Hunter exposes the narrative underpinnings—the lies, confusions, presumptions, and conclusions, whether direct and inferred or assumed—to show how Handel's 'lives' in biographies and histories have moulded our understanding of the musician, the man, and the icon.

Hunter is the music librarian and curator of the Historical Music Recordings Collection at the University of Texas Fine Arts Library, and is currently serving as interim head of the Library. He attributes his research method for this book partially to his studies at GSLIS, citing Professor Emeritus Don Krummel's insistence on thorough fact checking in reading, writing, and reference.

The Lives of George Frideric Handel was featured on the BBC Radio 3 program, "Music Matters," on January 18.

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