Jonathan Keates original biography of Handel was hailed as a masterpiece on its publication in 1985. This fully revised and updated new edition - published to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the composers death - charts in detail Handel's life, from his youth in Germany, through his brilliantly successful Italian sojourn, to the opulence and squalor of Georgian London where he made his permanent home.
For over two decades Handel was absorbed in London's heady but precarious operatic world. But even his phenomenal energy and determination could not overcome the public's growing indifference to Italian opera in the 1730s, and he turned finally to oratorio, a genre which he made peculiarly his own and in which he created some of his finest works, such as Saul, Messiah, Belshazzar and Jephtha.
Over the last two decades a complete revolution in Handel's status has taken place. He is now seen both as a titanic figure in music, whose compositions have found a permanent place in the international repertoire, and as one of the world's favourite composers, with snatches of his work accompanying weddings, funerals and television commercials the world over.
Skillfully interwoven with the account of Handel's life are commentaries on all his major works, as well as many less familiar pieces by this most inventive, expressive and captivating of composers. Handel was an extraordinary genius whose career abounded in reversals that would have crushed anyone with less resilience and will power, and Jonathan Keates writes about his life and work with sympathy and scrutiny.
The siege of Venice in 1848 is one of history's most thrilling and tragic episodes. After half a century of Habsburg imperial rule, the Venetians drove out the occupying army and established their own republic. Led by the Jewish lawyer Daniele Manin, a man of immense courage and personal integrity, they embraced the lofty values of the Risorgimento, Italy's struggle for national unity, freedom and justice. When the Austrians returned with a massive army, intent on recapturing Venice, Manin rejected their surrender demands. The city braced itself for a siege lasting more than a year, ending only when bombardment, cholera and starvation made further resistance impossible.
This epic story, in Jonathan Keates's gripping and meticulously-researched account, embraces the wider world of the revolutionary Italy of Garibaldi, Mazzini and Pope Pius IX, warrior priests, militant actresses, death-or-glory poets, a Mata Hari-type siren spy and a rebel princess. At the centre of the whole crowded canvas, however, stand the truest heroes of all - the people of Venice. Their grit, humour and endurance, under a hail of bombs and a tide of blood sweeping across their once peaceful lagoon, make The Siege of Venice a profoundly touching and unforgettable book.
Jonathan Keates has written extensively about Italy. He has also published acclaimed biographies of Handel, Purcell and Stendhal, and his fiction includes the short story collection Allegro Postillions (winner of both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Hawthornden Prize) and the novel The Strangers' Gallery set in 19th-century Italy. He is Chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund and for thirty-nine years taught English at the City of London School.