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Now Hear This “Handel: Italian Style”

Before becoming the most famous composer of his time, Handel gained a lifetime of experience in Italy. Welcomed by wealthy patrons, he traveled with the Scarlatti family and learned from Corelli and the masters of the Italian Style. Yoo returns to Italy to follow in Handel’s footsteps, taking in the art, architecture, fashion, food, wine, light and landscape that, even beyond Italian music, shaped this German composer for the rest of his life.

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-Up next, George Frideric Handel was a German composer who moved to London, wrote the 'Hallelujah' chorus, and other master works, and became the most celebrated musician of his day.

What allowed his great success?

Some say it was a four-year trip to Italy.

I went there to see for myself.

That was a lot of work getting up here.

-It's amazing. -I hear and play the music that inspired him.

♪♪ See the art, architecture, and fashion that surrounded him.

Can you imagine what he thought when he saw this?

I'd walk where he walked, drink what he drank, and eat what he ate... I won't ever be able to eat pizza again.

...to discover how Italy shaped this German composer for the rest of his life.

-You cannot help but be changed by Rome.

-Next on 'Great Performance,' 'Handel: Italian Style,' an episode for the new music series 'Now Hear This.'

♪♪ -When Handel came to Italy, the first thing he did was learn Italian-style music from masters like Corelli in places like this, the Santa Maria in Montesanto Church in Rome.

-Incredible. -I went there with cellist Bob deMaine to learn from one of today's masters of Italian style, Fabio Biondi.

-It's a very special place because Handel conducted his 'Dixit Dominus' here.

-He was standing here. -Yeah.

And Corelli played violin.

And it's the beginning of this fantastic adventure.

And Italy, and especially this moment, was so important for Handel that he remembered it during his life until the end of his career in London.

So, we have exactly the trio for playing trio sonatas like Corelli do.

Why we don't play something together?

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Beautiful music. -It's beautiful.

-It's amazing. I feel -- It's really nice to get to play it with you, also.

-Oh, that's -- -I feel like I'm getting it straight from the source. -Also for me.

-It's really nice. -Thank you.

And this is pure, genuine, Italian style.

-Okay. -So when Handel arrived in Italy, trio sonata was the most important format in the beginning of the 18th century.

And, of course, Corelli was the most important composer in Italy for instrumental music.

And Handel respect a lot Corelli, and the relation was very strong.

But at the same time, Handel, of course, want to absorb this style and also show his capacity to do the same thing.

So maybe we can play Handel now.

-Sure. -And please take my place.

-Okay.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Clearly, Handel was influenced by Italian music.

But it was popular across Europe -- he didn't have to come here to learn it.

What was it about Italy that kept him here for four years?

And how did it shape the rest of his life?

I went to the American Academy of Rome to see the great pianist Daria van den Bercken, who has spent the last few years studying Handel.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ That was great, Daria.

-Oh, thanks! -Fantastic.

So, when did Handel come to Italy?

-He was young.

He was about 20 and very adventurous.

He was in Hamburg. There's this funny story.

He actually met a member of the Medici family in Hamburg, who said that actually Handel would like Rome and the Italian style.

And Handel wasn't convinced about that, but he came and met all these composers, from Scarlatti to Corelli, but also violin makers like Amati and -- -It's funny you mention Corelli, because, yesterday, we played a Corelli trio sonata.

And then, right after, we played a Handel trio sonata, and they almost sounded like the same piece.

It was very, very closely related.

-Well, they totally are, because they have both the same form.

Handel adopted that form -- slow, fast, slow, fast, this Italian style.

And Corelli, actually, that's also funny -- at the start, didn't really like Handel's way of playing.

He said it should be more elegant.

And so Handel also adopted that.

For instance, in his violin sonatas, they have this elegance to it.

So maybe we should play one? -Sure.

-Would that be a good idea? -Sure.

-Do you know the D major? -Yep, a little bit.

-Let's do that. -Okay.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Many other composers have come to Rome for inspiration.

The American Academy has hosted several, like Samuel Barber and Philip Glass.

We asked their director about the many things that inspired them and Handel.

-You cannot help but be changed by Rome, whether it's a 2,000-year-old ruin or a Baroque church.

You're affected not only by the history and the archeology, but the art, the painting, the sculpture, and, of course, the food.

-Maybe seeing great clothing being made?

-See the light. -Beautiful light.

-Rome is a city of great history, but it's also a city of experimentation.

And Baroque architecture we have to think of as a radical experiment in architecture.

It was really radical at the time, and Baroque music was really emerging directly together with the architecture... -Wow.

-...with these beautiful churches creating new spaces for music.

And so we cannot think of Baroque music without the Baroque architecture of Rome.

-So the Italian architecture of Handel's time was literally affecting how he wrote, because he was writing for those spaces.

-Absolutely.

♪♪ -There are few people more expert about Baroque architecture and music than Professor Jeffrey Blanchard.

I met him at Sant'Andrea al Quirinale.

-Bernini designed this church in 1658, and it was completed by 1670.

So when Handel was here, it was 35 years old.

-So he might have seen this?

-He certainly would have seen it.

We're seeing it at a particularly beautiful moment, because the natural light coming through the lantern is illuminating those gilded angels in rays of light.

And Bernini's very attentive to using light as if it's one of his artistic media... -[ Chuckles ] That's great. -...putting together architecture, sculpture, painting, and light, which has a symbolic connotation -- it's the light of heaven coming down.

In all of Bernini's churches, he presents a theatrical story like this, sacred in nature.

And every detail of the building is carefully considered.

-Stunning.

-And certainly these are things that Handel would have observed carefully and absorbed.

Now, it's interesting -- we don't often think of Handel as a prodigy, but he was.

He wrote music when he was a kid.

He was an amazing performer on the keyboard when he was still very young.

But if we think of the most famous of musical prodigies, Mozart... what Bernini and Mozart have in common is that their fathers were, respectively, a sculptor and a musician.

And they encouraged the genius when they recognized it in their young sons.

Handel's father, who was a barber-surgeon and a wealthy mercantile guy in Halle, didn't want his son to be a musician.

He wanted him to be a lawyer. -Hm.

-So they fought a lot.

But one of the local princes insisted that he be given a musical education.

And fortunately, Handel went in that direction.

♪♪ -Free from the pressure of his father, Handel was able to experience and participate in an art scene like he had never known before, in places like the Colonna Gallery.

[ Chuckling ] Whoa!

♪♪ Whoa!

♪♪ Oh, my God, this doesn't look real!

♪♪ -This is arguably the most magnificent and stupefying palace interior in all of Europe.

Handel certainly would have seen this space.

-Can you imagine what he thought when he saw this, given that he was kind of from a provincial town in Germany, and then he comes here to Rome and sees this?

-Yes, he would have been knocked off his feet, as we still are today, centuries later.

-As I am! -It reminds us, if we think of Handel's whole career, that he takes away from Italy, from those four years, a love of this kind of Baroque language and splendor that's going to accompany him.

Think of the operas and oratories that he produces in England.

There's a magnificence in all of that music that has a lot to do with this Italian culture that's infused into him as a young man.

-Handel experienced the splendor of Rome, not only in architecture.

I went to Tirelli Costumes, who have created spectacular wardrobes for hundreds of operas.

Here, designer Sonu Mishra showed me their collection of original clothing.

♪♪ -Scott, what you're about to see are some of the most beautiful clothing from the 1700s.

-Wait, this is -- this is not a reproduction -- this is actually from the 1700s.

-Every piece is from the 1700s.

-I mean, how did this survive that many years?

-They belonged to wealthy, noble families in Italy.

So they had the possibility of preserving them in a much better way than a regular person could have.

-I'm speechless. I can't believe it.

-It's all hand-embroidered.

-I mean, each one of these little details was done by hand.

-Yes. -I mean, think about how many of those there are!

That's so much work!

-Yes. Hours and hours.

Weeks, perhaps months of work would go into embroidering these cloths, which would then be made into a suit for the man.

-What strikes me even looking at this is there are all these small, little embellishments everywhere that are not really necessary, but they're nice.

-This was a part of the whole Baroque period.

-Okay.

-Clothing were a part of something bigger than just utility.

And they wore clothing to show off their position in society, who they were, where they belonged, their wealth, their power. -Mm-hmm.

-And all that went into the details, you know?

It reminds me of a phrase, of a term that came into use in the 1500s in Italy called -Oh! -Yeah, I just didn't know where it came from. -And it meant casual elegance.

Months might have gone into making this outfit, but perhaps the person who wore it wore it with such ease and elegance because he belonged in that environment where something like this was a part of his daily life, you know -- in a very effortless, graceful manner.

-Huh. Interesting. So maybe Handel picked that term up here, 'sprezzatura.' -Yeah.

-At least the concept. -I think he might have, because it's very relevant to the culture at that time.

-When I was a child studying Handel, I remember thinking, 'Oh, I could write that.

Oh, that's simple. It's very easy.'

But now, of course, as an adult, I realize that you can't write that music.

It's genius-level music, but it looks simple.

And then, these little buttons, all of these little flowers, you know, we don't have flowers in music.

But we have the same ornaments in music, and many of them, especially in the Baroque music.

Let me get my violin -- I'll show you what I mean.

So this is the Handel, but unadorned, unornamented.

♪♪ Just -- That's it, just four notes.

And then, we have adorned music, or ornamented music.

♪♪ And it doesn't change the content of the music, but it just gives it a flower here, and there's a lily there, and so forth.

I'm just surprised that I'm gaining insight into Baroque music by looking at Baroque clothing.

Who would have thought?

[ Indistinct conversations ] I went to learn more about the Baroque style of performance from members of the Baroque Orchestra of Santa Cecilia.

Paolo, you're telling me that yesterday you were playing on a modern oboe.

-Yes. -And now you're playing on an ancient oboe -- what's the difference?

-[ Chuckling ] Oh! Big difference.

Two different instruments, two different way to play.

We try to play in a Baroque style with old technique and with lightness.

Normally, the modern instrument in the big, modern orchestra play in very intensive way.

♪♪ -Hey. Big sound. -Big sound, because the modern orchestra is very big.

A lot of people, a lot of sound.

But when we play in Baroque era, the ensemble were always very little, very chamber music, so very sweet.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Hm. Much different. -Yes.

-Much different. -It's playing without effort.

Baldassare Castiglione in 16th century used this word -- It means playing without effort, showing no difficulties.

-I've heard that word three times now today.

-Yeah. [ Both laugh ] -So when we say we have to play Baroque music with sprezzatura, we have to play Baroque music easy... -Easy. -...light and easy.

-Yes. -But it's hard!

It's difficult. -We try.

We try not to show these difficulties.

-Right. -Yeah.

That's right. -We try not to show it.

-We have to work a lot to seem we have not worked, so... -You know, I'd love to play this.

-Okay. -Can we?

-We play together. -Let's do it.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Jeffrey took me to Handel's neighborhood in Rome, overlooking St. Peter's Cathedral.

So what did this part of Rome have to do with Handel's time here?

-Handel's patrons in Rome included three cardinals and a prince.

So we're in the area where these patrons resided.

One of the common things with artists, when they come to a place, is that they're given hospitality by their patrons.

So Handel lived with Prince Ruspoli in his palace, which is right below where we're standing, and in his country residence.

So he would have not only known the urban spaces, the streets and the piazzas, but also the interiors of these grand houses.

♪♪ -So this is somebody's actual house?

-Yes! The Colonna family has been living in this house since the 13th century. -[ Chuckling ] Oh.

-And over those centuries, they've produced many -- -That must be some kind of record.

-Yes. Many extraordinary members of the family, including a Cardinal Carlo Colonna, who was one of Handel's patrons. -Wow.

So this is Handel's patron's house.

-Yes. -Let's go inside.

-It was typical in these families for the first son to inherit the title and the major properties, the second son, typically, had a military career, and the third son would enter the church... -And that's what happened in their family?

-...and at this level, would became a Cardinal, and that's exactly what happens in this instance.

This is the Vanvitelli room, where we have the most important place on earth to look at the paintings of Caspar van Wittel, a Dutch artist who arrives in Rome in 1675 and, unlike Handel, spends his whole career here.

-Okay.

-The Colonna are his major patrons, and we have 39 of his paintings in this room.

And they show us Rome and other Italian places, including Venice and Naples, pretty much like Handel would have seen them.

-Wow. -'Cause they're exactly from the arc of time of his visit and his subsequent visit.

-We were just there! -We were!

And it looks quite similar today.

What has changed? The piazza has been paved.

We see the dome of St. Peter's in the distance.

This is probably an ambassador visiting the Pope.

The piazzas of Rome, one of the names by which they were called was 'theater.'

-Hm. -They were open-air theaters, and very much related to the theatrical life that Handel would have been involved.

-I can almost imagine Handel being there.

That's him! -Yes, you could imagine that.

He, also, of course, goes to Naples, another great opera city, and the city that we associate with the Scarlatti, Alessandro Scarlatti being the greatest figure in the composition of Italian opera between Monteverdi and Handel himself.

So in this city, we have a very rich musical tradition which includes the elevated and the popular from the upper echelons of its court to the popular music of the streets.

-Hm.

♪♪ I decided it was time to leave Rome, to follow in Handel's footsteps.

And I would start in Naples, where he went to study opera with Alessandro Scarlatti.

Here, I met Gianfranco Iervolino, a master not only of Naples' most popular food, but also its popular music.

-Welcome to my operating room! -[ Laughs ] -This is a chef jacket.

-Thank you! -Now I show you nice pizza.

-Okay! -This is San Marzano.

I put just a little Parmesan cheese... -Okay.

-...just to make sweet the sauce.

This is fresh basil from the mountain here, from Vesuvio.

This is bufala -- it's really nice.

Try it.

♪♪ -Mmm! [ Chuckles ] -Yeah.

-That is really good! -It's like opera!

Yeah! -Oh, it's incredible.

-[ Laughs ] Okay.

Oh. Very good.

Olive oil, all the time.

This is olive oil of Salerno.

-So, Gianfranco, when you're making a pizza like this, you have to use really good ingredients to be making a pizza as good as the ones you make, right?

-Yes. -The ingredient has to be good.

-Yeah. The ingredients is the first thing for make a nice pizza, and I started to make pizza when I was 13 years old.

And now I am 44.

[ Chuckles ] So that's a long time.

For this job, you need a lot of experience.

-Mm-hmm.

-And now I make some nice pizza for you, and we eat together.

-Okay. Thank you. Thank you. -What you think about that?

It's a good idea. -I'll wait for you out there.

-Thank you.

♪♪ [ Singing in Italian ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Whistling ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing in Italian ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -[ Applauds ] Bravo! -Thank you. Thank you.

Oh, thank you. -You're a beautiful singer!

-Thank you. Thank you very much.

Thank you.

-And here it is. -Yeah.

This is pizza.

Okay. Enjoy your meal, sir.

-Okay, thank you. -[ Chuckles ] [ Indistinct conversations ] Oh, my God.

-It's very nice. -I won't ever be able to eat pizza again.

Oh. That's incredible. It's just... The crust is perfect.

-Yeah? -They've been making this kind of pizza here for many, many years, right?

-Yeah. -This Napolitano pizza.

-Yeah. It's born, the pizza Napolitana, 200, nearly 300 years ago.

-And that's kind of like music, right?

From Scarlatti's time, they've been singing in Italian here in Naples since the 1600s, also.

-Yeah. Yeah. That's true.

-Handel fell in love with this kind of food and this kind of music in Naples.

From here, he traveled with Alessandro Scarlatti and his son Domenico, staging operas in other cities like Bologna.

I went there to meet Fabio Biondi again.

[ Bell tolling ] [ Tolling continues ] [ Tolling continues ] -Wow!

That was a lot of work getting up here!

-[ Chuckling ] Yeah. Did you see, Scott?

It's amazing. -Yeah.

-We are in the tower -- -It's huge!

-Yeah. And when the bells sounds all together, the tower shift one meter.

-One meter? -Yeah.

-It moves back and forth a meter?

-Yeah. -Really?

-Yeah! So it's enormous.

And, of course, you have probably the best view of Bologna here.

You can see everything, how much was big -- is big and was big also in the 18th century.

Why this town was so important?

Because there was a lot of theater, opera theater, and we jump again in the relation between Alessandro Scarlatti and Handel.

-Alessandro Scarlatti being the father of the keyboard composer.

-The father of the keyboard composer.

-Okay. -At this point, Handel considered Scarlatti really a fantastic, probably the best opera composer, vocal composer.

And we will play today, if you want to stay with me and play, two arias -- one Scarlatti Alessandro, and one Handel.

So we can compare and understand this difference, and, of course, with Vivica Genaux.

-Oh, great! She's amazing.

-She's amazing. She's a big friend.

And maybe also talk about how we play with Baroque bow today.

-Ah. -That's extremely interesting in terms of the relation between the Baroque bow and the modern bow.

-Hm. [ Latches click ] -And when you use a modern bow for to have some articulation like, you know... ♪♪ That's very difficult to... ♪♪ Play short... ♪♪ ...because naturally the modern bow give you... ♪♪ But with the Baroque bow, you have immediately the right articulation that's spiccato... ♪♪ -Hm.

-Because this is what that bow give you.

But the same thing with the modern?

It's difficult. Try it.

-Ah. Okay, so... ♪♪ -That sounds good, but a little unnatural.

And... ♪♪ -Oh, I see.

-Very interesting. -Yeah.

-So more than the instrument, I believe that the bow -- it's really very important for our interpretation live.

-Isn't that interesting?

Because, I mean, it's the same hair.

-Absolutely. Yeah, of course.

-It's just horse hair. Same violin.

-Same violin. -Same rosin.

-But sounds completely different.

-But sounds completely different.

-Sometimes the bow sounds even more different than the violin.

-I agree. -You change the bow, and you feel like I have another violin.

-Mm-hmm.

-So I think the future for the string player, it's not to change the violin, but... -Change the bow. -...to have a good collection of bows.

-So this is what I'm going to play some Scarlatti on?

-This is for me, but this is for you.

-Oh, great!

-It's 18th century, but a little later.

-Nice. Alright.

This is going to be fun!

♪♪ -[ Singing in Italian ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Wow, Vivica, that is the best I've ever heard!

-Thank you! -You sound like a million dollars! -Thank you! Thank you very much.

-So, this is Scarlatti!

-This is Scarlatti, yeah.

Completely different -- even you can understand how much Handel is maybe more Italian than Scarlatti.

-The German is more Italian than the Italian.

-Exactly.

He absorbed completely the language in Italy.

Kind of to be extrovert and narcissist, typical of the Italian culture... [ Laughter ] So the next aria sounds really very virtuoso, more than Scarlatti.

-Shall we play some extroverted, narcissistic music?

-Exactly. -Let's do it.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -[ Singing in Italian ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -From the beginning, Italian comedy informed Italian opera -- and informed Handel, too.

[ Laughter ] In nearby Prato, I went to see the musical comedy team Duo Baldo to learn more.

♪♪ [ Playing piano ] [ Laughter ] [ Applause ] You are, arguably, the most famous Italian musical comics.

What is the Italian style of comedy?

-Well, it's a visual thing.

I mean, you can see the dynamics going between the two characters or -- -Physical comedy.

-Physical comedy. It's very pure.

And sometimes you have to face a problem, and you have to solve it.

And that can lead to -- how do you say... -Shenanigans. -Yeah.

That's what I meant.

[ Laughter and applause ] Shenanigans.

[ Applause continues ] -What are we going to hear tonight?

-We've added a piece of music by Handel.

It's actually a transcription for violin and piano.

-Okay.

-So this is actually the first time we're going to perform this new arrangement this evening.

-Oh, excellent. This is a world premiere!

[ Applause ] -Enjoy.

[ Tuning violin ] [ Tuning continues ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Both stop ] [ Laughter ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Laughter ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Laughter ] -So it sounds like a lot of these qualities of Italian comedy also exist in Italian opera.

-Oh, absolutely.

Number one, they talk about everyday tasks, like washing dishes. How many... Rossini, how many operas did he write of simple tasks -- and they're just so funny and well-constructed.

And we watch that, whether there's singing or not, but the stage direction puts it together so that the audience -- whether they understand music or the words -- they get it.

♪♪ -And Handel was really attracted by Italian opera.

In fact, he wrote more than 30 operas.

-In Italian? -In Italian.

Like he was this German with an Italian heart.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Yeah! [ Cheers and applause ] [ Laughs ] [ Applause continues ] One final thing that must have inspired Handel, coming from rainy Germany, is Italy itself -- the light and the landscape.

At Argiano Vineyards, they've captured these in wine for so long that Handel himself may have tasted it.

I met their president, Bernardino Sani.

-And it's very important time of the year, of course, the busiest time. -Mm-hmm.

-And we do manual harvest on the Oliveira vineyard, on the Sangiovese. -Uh-huh.

Manual harvest, meaning you actually have people picking the grapes?

-Exactly.

-You know, there's something about this place that feels very ancient to me.

-There's for sure this feeling due to the fact that this particular estate has been producing wine since the 16th century.

So, a long, long time ago -- always been a wine producer for 500 years.

-Oh, my God!

What is the difference between a vineyard here and, say, a vineyard in California or a vineyard in France?

What makes this vineyard Italian?

-Everything that we do, it comes from the history.

So when we make wine here, we think of the water my grandfather wanted to drink on a regular basis, and what are the best wine that goes with pappardelle al cinghiale, for example, our local food.

That's a whole different philosophy in Italy about wine-making that comes from the history and to the link with the terroir, with the tradition.

That's very important.

-Tradition first. -Tradition first.

♪♪ So here, the grapes arrive, and they go into the de-stemming machine.

So we separate, basically, the green part from the berries.

♪♪ -That is so cool!

-And then, those little things here, they do a gentle press on the grapes.

We want to leave them almost entire.

Then they go down there, and they get pumped into the tank.

♪♪ So they end up like this, and they do have the fermentation inside the berries.

-Wow. So they're fermenting right there.

-A little bit inside... -Even though it looks like a grape still.

-Exactly.

-The great piano improviser Antonio Artese met me at the winery, and he brought his piano to show me how Handel's German melodies were transformed by Italy.

♪♪ [ Laughs ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -And so forth, so on.

So that's Beethoven, obviously -- it's a bit off in terms of time.

But let's take these few notes and transpose them, actually, into the Italian aria environment that, you know, Handel was listening to.

-Okay.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ You know, that amazed me the last time we met, and it's still amazes me that you can do that, Antonio.

Bravo. -Thank you. Thank you.

-What is going through your head as you try to create this?

Are you really trying to make it more Italian, or does your brain access the catalog of Handel's music that you know?

Like, how does that work?

-It works like -- you know, I feel... I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of Handel composing this... -Hm.

-...be surrounded by what he heard at the time.

And, obviously, this is more suitable for a harpsichord style. -Right.

-However, you know, it's very simple, very concise, and beautiful, all the lines.

So I imagine this, and I come up with -- with a little style, you know, mock for Handel's music.

-So what I'm getting from this experience here at the vineyard is that Italian-style wine tastes like Italian-style wine because it's from Italy.

And, also, Italian-style music sounds like Italian-style music because it's influenced by Italy, as well.

-Absolutely. As a second example, I would like to play for you is one of the inventions by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Actually, Bach and Handel, you know, were born the same year, almost in the same place, 100 miles, you know, apart.

And if Handel didn't come to Italy during his formative years, most likely, you know, he would have played, you know, a melody like this.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ This is very simple. Everyone knows this melody, and, obviously, if you hear it in a different context -- which is the Italian context of beauty, you know, of this energy coming in that fuels the Renaissance -- then all of a sudden, this very little precise and geometric melody becomes like... ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -So in some ways, what you're saying is -- Handel equals Bach plus Italy.

-Yeah. I would say, you know, it transforms.

It's like, you know, an X function.

So the functionality of being abroad, which was a big thing, you know, to be able to absorb the culture -- to observe and absorb. -Hm.

-So you can't forget the light.

You can't forget the beauty of the landscape.

You can't forget, you know, the beauty of this melodic line.

So every single time, this style gets back, and it gets so deeply absorbed in those years of his formation in Italy that then we can experience it in every single work afterwards.

-As Handel did, I finally returned to Rome for one more visit with Daria van den Bercken.

So, Handel not only learned from Italian composers, but he really did learn from Italian culture.

-Oh, I agree, absolutely.

-You know, I've been traveling Italy for the past, you know, 10 days or so, and one common thread through everything that I saw was this sense of elegance.

-Oh, you know, I can show that in his music, in his most personal works like the harpsichord suites, this elegance.

Just listen to this.

♪♪ Pure elegance, right? -Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

-It just goes on for two more minutes.

-It feels weightless. -It feels weightless.

-Yeah. Also, the appearance of opera in his music.

-Oh, absolutely!

-The influence of Italian opera in this German composer.

-You know, in this same suite, you have this almost recitativo-like start as if an aria is coming. -Hm.

-For instance, this... ♪♪ ...orchestra, and then the voice... ♪♪ ♪♪ That's opera. -You just need to remove the right hand, add some words, and add a singer, and then that's a recitativo.

-And then you have a recitativo. Absolutely.

-The other thing that we saw that I found so interesting was how everything was hand-made and very, very precisely crafted.

-And I guess here, Handel... even Handel the German just fit in Italy, because he was... for instance, in his fugue form, absolutely the master of this craftsmanship.

And, uh... ♪♪ You know, it's for voice, but this very transparent and genius, healthy fugue finishes this suite I was just playing for you.

-Hm. -And it fits.

-That's nice.

And the final thing that I saw a lot of in Italy was this sense of purity.

You know, when they make wine, they don't use any pesticides.

There seems to be something very pure about Italian stuff.

-Absolutely. Pure and transparent, like... ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Recently, Daria took Handel to the people, playing the piano across her native Amsterdam.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Applause ] ♪♪ With Daria's public performances as inspiration, Bob deMaine and I took Handel back to the streets of Rome.

♪♪ ♪♪ Surrounded by the art and architecture, the light and the energy that inspired it, Handel's music felt as alive as ever.

And playing it here reminded me how music is connected to all art forms.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ After four years, Handel left Italy, but it never left him.

He settled in London, but continued to write operas in Italian and hired Italian singers and musicians to perform them.

♪♪ In these, and all his music, there was always the splendor, elegance, purity. and technique that he imported from the Italian style.

♪♪ Handel found his muse here, as did Vivaldi in opera, Bach in French dance, and Domenico Scarlatti in Spain.

We all need inspiration.

I take mine from the work of our greatest composers, and I hope that you can, too.

♪♪ I'm Scott Yoo, reminding you to 'Now Hear This.'

[ Choir singing ] ♪♪ -To order 'Now Hear This' on DVD or the companion CD, visit shopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.

♪♪ To find out more about this and other 'Great Performances' programs, visit pbs.org/greatperformances, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

♪♪ ♪♪