How to Handle Spelling Händel

By  | February 1, 2011 | 6 Comments | Filed under: Features

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Ian Howell is a countertenor based in Boston, Massachusetts. He regularly performs as a concert and operatic soloist all across North America and writes from time to time. He was educated at Yale and Capital Universities, sang with Chanticleer from 2000-04, and is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts student at the New England Conservatory of Music. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

  • Simon Schmid

    Great little article, thoroughly researched!
    I always used “Händel” as i’m from Germany, not out of national pride, but because it’s his birth name and i have that beautiful ä key on my keyboard. But now I see that Handel chose “Handel” for himself (even when writing to his german family!), so i’ll use “Handel” when writing in English now.

  • Patrick Meausette

    I am an Anglophone who speaks German,
    and I still support the umlaut or the ‘e’ version because,
    otherwise the pronunciation comes out as a drawn out as a crass Haaaaandle as in something on the edge of a pot,
    rather than the crisper Hendel (Händel).
    My guide is that his music is very precise.

    If broadcasters could soften and shorten the ‘a’
    and not draw it out in a nasal Haaaaaeeewndel,
    and say simply Handel,
    then an umlaut-less version would be fine in English.
    As it stands, it sometimes comes out as country-western.

  • Volker Mueller

    - of course! there is only one little flaw, and correcting it will even further support your results: the German “ä” does not sound like “e” in bed but very much like “a” in hands or – Handel! … A naturalized citizen he could not get closer to the original sound than by writing “a” when living in England. To use the “e” when in Italy is just as easy to explain, evwen if not as close a match as English “a” and German “ä”, there is nothing as close to the original sound, the Italian “a” will never allow for anything but the “a” of “amore”. – (Therefore it seems wrong to speak his name in a fashion that gets close to just that a-sound he always wished to avoid wherever he was; – it is “hand”, not “hard”).

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  • Drew Minter

    Indeed! I’d never felt it to be such a problem, and I daresay, Mr. Handel wouldn’t care either, as long as people bought tickets.