Handel & Hendrix in London is the new name for the Handel House Museum, and can be found at Nos 23-25 in Brook Street
The German composer George Friedrich Handel lived at No.25 from 1723 until his death in 1759, and it was here that he wrote some of his best-loved works including Messiah, Zadok the Priest and Music for the Royal Fireworks.
The ground floor of the house is now a shop, but the rest of it has been restored to how it was in the early 18th-century, with prints, portraits and paintings on the walls, and display cases containing Handel’s original music scores.
The house next door was home to another famous musician… but not quite in the same sphere of music. This was where the 60’s guitar legend Jimi Hendrix lived.
All you can really see of his flat is the bedroom, which is still dressed in sixties decor, whilst another couple of rooms contain an exhibition about his short life and the music he left behind.
This review originally appeared in his London blog
I’m at an age now where I don’t mind listening to classical music every now and then, so I actually know who Handel is, believe it or not – he’s the guy who wrote the theme tune music for Champions League football. Or was that Puccini? I can never remember. He did the music for Coronation Street anyway, or the Queen’s coronation music – something like that.
Handel is technically a German but the English still love him because he used to live in London whilst he was writing music for George II. We even buried him in Westminster Abbey for chrissakes – that is how much we love the bloke. He comes in at No.3 in our all-time list of favourite German musicians (behind David Hasselhoff and The Scorpions).
All of his tunes seem to be very jaunty and jolly, so I’m guessing that he was a fat fella who liked his drink. It is very happy music – if you put it on then the sun will come out. If your kids are fighting then play them a bit of Handel and five minutes later they’ll be hugging each other like nothing happened.
When you get inside the front door you are pointed straight up the stairs to the first room: the rehearsal room. There’s no audio guide or anything like that – you just walk around the rooms reading the little plastic cards they’ve placed around the tables.
The rehearsal room contains a huge harpsichord but everything was very quiet today, and that’s why I’m going to have my first little moan – I was looking forward to hearing some actual music. It sounds daft, but parts of the house are quieter than a library. I only heard one solitary song the whole time I was in the Handel house, and that was only coming out of one room.
Why don’t they have his music blasting out everywhere? From every room and every corridor? That seems like a total no-brainer to me. If you’ve ever heard Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks then you’ll know that it needs to be played loud. You need to throw open the windows and blast it across Mayfair. People come here because they love Handel, and they want to hear a few of his tunes shaking the floorboards.
But anyway… the house looks very much like it would have done in his day, with creaky wooden floorboards and a few oil paintings and drawings on the walls, but none of them look original to the house – they’ve just selected them to show some people he would have known. There’s hardly any period furniture either, just a few fireplaces and wooden shutters on the windows.
The only room that is properly furnished is his bedroom which contains a plush four-poster bed and a chamber pot. There are hardly any personal possessions either, just a few music scores.
The information boards are certainly detailed enough and well worth a read, but if you came here to see how he lived then you’re going to go home disappointed. I would have liked to have seen a recreated Georgian kitchen with a roaring fireplace and hunks of bread and bloody meat on the table, and a tin-bath downstairs where he had a wash (like they do in the Charles Dickens Museum). Even if the objects were all replicas it wouldn’t matter, because it would bring a bit of life to the place. It’s too darn quiet.
Note: Read Craig’s latest review for a look at the Jimi Hendrix flat.
> Read Craig’s latest review of Handel & Hendrix in London “Handel and Jimi Hendrix. Imagine having to live next door to those two – you’d have Handel blasting his music at you by day and Jimi shaking the walls at night. You’d be forever banging on the adjoining wall with your fist trying to get a bit of kip. The tour begins at the top of No.23. That’s where Jimi lived. Or rather, that’s where he slept – because he seems to have spent most of his time in bed. You will immediately know it’s Jimi’s house when you step through the door because they start blasting his music at you. It would be nice if you could walk through his front door and into his hall, but it… continued.”
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If you like Handel then how about attending a Handel recital in London? The best classical music venues in London are the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall and Royal Opera House. Cadogan Hall is also worth a try. You can hear some free classical music at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. There are more classical music recitals and operas in our London events guide.
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