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Are you ready to baroque and roll?

In 2009 the cultural world celebrates a year given over to the baroque: music, architecture, art and style. Baroque 09 brings together museums, galleries, orchestras and broadcasting organisations to celebrate the opulence and splendour of the period from the mid 17th to the late 18th centuries.

 It marks the 250th anniversary of the death of George Frederick Handel and the 300th anniversary of the birth of Henry Purcell – the two most notable composers of the era to reside in this country. In addition to a multitude of musical events, the Handel House Museum – the composer’s home for the last three decades of his life – has a special exhibition, Handel: Man and Myth, running from April to October and the Foundling Museum is staging Handel the Philanthropist until June. Handel was a governor and benefactor of the Foundling Hospital and composed an anthem for the opening of its chapel. Annual performances of Messiah were a vital source of income.
Perhaps the most important exhibition spanning the wider artistic spectrum that was the baroque is the Victoria and Albert Museum’s spring exhibition, Baroque 1620 – 1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence.
The exhibition will reflect the grandeur of the Baroque style, from the Rome of Borromini and Bernini to the magnificence of Louis XIV’s Versailles and the lavishness of Baroque theatre and performance. On display will be religious paintings by Rubens and Tiepolo while silver furniture, portraits, sculpture, a regal bed and court tapestries will conjure up the rooms of a Baroque palace. The exhibition will also show how, as European power spread, Baroque style reached other parts of the world, captured in objects such as a gilded Mexican altarpiece.
Displays will cover architecture, furniture, silver, ceramics, painting, sculpture, and textiles.
The V&A’s director Mark Jones said: “Our exhibition will be the first to examine all the elements of baroque, including architecture, art and design, and will look at how it established itself throughout Europe and then internationally.”
Elsewhere, one of the country’s most notable baroque buildings, the Royal College in Greenwich, will be celebrating in style with a programme of music by Bach and Handel. The building was designed by Wren and completed by a Who’s Who of baroque era architects, including Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh. There will also be lectures on Wren, Hawksmoor and Thornhill, specially themed guided tours and a grand dinner in the Painted Hall in July.
Musically the celebrations will be led by the BBC, with Proms and other concerts themed on the baroque. Major baroque orchestras will be vying for our attendance at concert halls throughout the country, while the Barbican will be staging performances of oratorios and operas by Handel and Purcell. Two major BBC television series will be complemented by broadcasts of Handel and Purcell operas from the Royal Opera House.
Plus, of course, London will be showing off its newly-restored, 300-year-old masterpiece: St Paul’s Cathedral.

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