New research on Handel’s life praised

27 Jun 2014 - 16:45

*Photograph courtesy Georg-Friedrich-Händel-Gesellschaft e.V., Halle (Saale), Germany

South African College of Music director, Associate Professor Rebekka Sandmeier recently returned from Germany where she was awarded the 2014 Händel-Forschungspreis. The prize is awarded to a select few by the German Handel Society for outstanding research on the life and work of the composer George Frideric Handel. Rebbeka received the accolade on the 10 June at the opening ceremony of the Händel Konferenz in Halle. 

The 2014 prize was awarded jointly to Associate Professor Rebekka Sandmeier (University of Cape Town) and Dr Dominik Höink (University of Münster) both of whom were nominated for the publication Aufführungen von Händels Oratorien im deutschsprachigen Raum (1800–1900): Texte und Rezensionen in ausgewählten Musikzeitschriften which will be published by V&R Unipress Goettingen in September 2014. The publication will be an invaluable tool for researchers on oratorio performances and the influence of Handel in 19th-century Germany. Repertoire, singers, institutions and concert programming can all be traced in the catalogue. The two received the award in front of an international audience comprised of representatives from the German Ministry of Arts and Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt, officials of the city of Halle, academics from the University of Halle as well as many international Handel scholars. Acclaimed German musicologist Professor Silke Leopold, who has published extensively on music composed before 1800, delivered the Laudatio. According to Rebekka the award constitutes a serious nod of approval from the prestigious musical society, from peers and from potential funders, particularly given the nature of the research. “The kind of research we have conducted does not easily achieve this level of recognition from the fraternity since by working with primary sources, it lays the basis for future research directions rather than providing immediate findings. However, it is clear that our work is valued by other researchers in the field who now have a good set of data on which to base their own research” said Rebekka.
Collaboration between the prize recipients dates back to 2000 when Dominik was an undergraduate student under Rebekka’s tutelage at the University of Muenster. In 2008 both were searching for new research projects and both were drawn to the field of oratorio in the 19th century. The special focus on the performances of Handel’s oratorios emerged later, as a result of an online exchange of ideas and material. An added benefit of this project was the involvement of German and South African student research assistants Maike Gevers, Nicole d’Oliveira and Itunu Ogunseitan. In addition to its scholarly merit, the publication was selected for an award because it introduced students to research on Handel. Data collection involved painstaking analysis of thousands of 19th century music journals and student support proved invaluable. “We decided to involve both undergraduate and postgraduate music students in the research project because it’s important to show undergraduate students in particular, that lecturers don’t just teach, but that they actively contribute towards research. The best way to do that is to involve them in research, which may then spark interest in postgraduate research. This is particularly important in the field of historical musicology where there are plenty of fascinating, under-researched areas to investigate” said Rebekka.   

Rebekka Sandmeier took over as Head of the South African College of Music in March 2014. She has published widely on English music, opera and oratorio as well as music of the 15th, 19th and early 20th century.