Burrows, Donald (James) 1945-

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BURROWS, Donald (James) 1945-


Born December 28, 1945, in London, England; married Marilyn Jones, July 23, 1971; children: three sons. Education: Trinity Hall, Cambridge, B.A., 1968, Certificate of Education, 1969, M.A., 1971; Open University, Ph.D., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Steam locomotives, model railways.


Office—Music Department, Faculty of Arts, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, England.


Lecturer in music, conductor, and writer. John Mason School, Abingdon, England, director of music, 1970-82; Open University, Milton Keynes, England, 1982—, professor of music, 1995—; Abingdon and District Music Society, Abingdon, conductor, 1972-1983; Oxford Holiday Orchestra, Oxford, England, conductor, 1978—; St. Nicholas Church, Abingdon, organist and choirmaster, 1972-1982; St. Botolph's, Aspley Guise, Master of the Music, 1985—. Member of Redaktionskollegium, Hallische Händel-Ausgabe, 1984—, and Vorstand, Georg Friedrich Händel-Gesellschaft, 1987—; founding member of the Handel Institute, 1985—; member of advisory board, Maryland Handel Festival, 1988-2001.


Royal Musical Association, Royal College of Organists.


Merton College, Oxford University, studentship, 1979; British Academy research grant, 1979; Music Library Association, Vincent H. Duckles Award, for A Catalogue of Handel's Musical Autographs, 1994; Händelpreis der stadt Halle, 2000.


Handel: Messiah (part of the Cambridge Music Handbooks series), Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Martha J. Ronish) A Catalogue of Handel's Musical Autographs, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Handel (part of the "Master Musicians" series), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor) The Cambridge Companion to Handel, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Rosemary Dunhill) Music and Theatre in Handel's World: The Family Papers of James Harris, 1732-1780, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.


The Anthem on the Peace, Novello (London, England), 1981.

Alexander's Feast, Novello (London, England), 1982.

Foundling Hospital Anthem, Edition Peters (New York, NY), 1983.

I Will Magnify Thee: Anthem for the Chapel Royal of George I, Royal School of Church Music (Croydon, England) 1984.

Complete Violin Sonatas, two volumes, Edition Peters (New York, NY), 1985-86.

Messiah, Edition Peters (New York, NY), 1987.

As Pants the Hart, Novello (London, England), 1988.

Songs and Cantatas for Soprano and Continuo, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Complete Hymns and Chorales, Novello (London, England), 1988.

Water Music, Novello (London, England), 1991.

Belshazzar, Novello (London, England), 1993.

Sing unto God: Wedding Anthem for Frederick, Prince of Wales, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Suite à deux Clavecins, Breitkopf & Härtel (Wiesbaden, Germany), 1998.

Imeneo, Bärenreiter (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Damian Cranmer) Four Coronation Anthems, Novello (London, England), 2002.


Salut d'Amour, versions for violin and piano, and piano solo, Edition Peters (New York, NY), 1995.

Chanson de matin and Chanson de nuit, Edition Peters (New York, NY), 1995.

Contributor to periodicals, including Musical Times, Music and Letters, and Göttingen Händel-Beiträge. Contributor to books, including Music in Eighteenth-Century Britain, edited by David Wyn Jones, Ashgate (Burlington, VT), 2000, and Ausdrucksformen der Musik des Barock, edited by Siegfried Schmalzreidt, Laaber-Verlag (Laaber, Germany), 2002.


Handel and the English Chapel Royal, for Oxford University Press (New York, NY); music editions of Handel's Sauson and Ariodante.


Donald Burrows is a conductor, composer, musician, and lecturer in music at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England. An acclaimed eighteenth-century music specialist, he has written some of the definitive scholarly work on George Frederick Handel. As James R. Oestreich noted in the New York Times, "Mr. Burrows is a specialist of the first rank."

Burrows's dissertation for his Ph.D. at the Open University, "Handel and the English Chapel Royal during the Reigns of Queen Anne and King George I," brought him to the forefront of his field in 1981. Ten years later, he published the "Cambridge Music Handbook" edition of Handel: Messiah. Aiming to encompass both historical scholarship and musicology, Burrows's handbook is "highly readable," according to Choice's P. G. Swing. Despite the book's attempted all-inclusiveness, however, Roger Norrington of the Times Literary Supplement felt that it would be better suited to a scholar than a performer: "Burrows is strong on the historical background to Messiah, the stages of its development and its early performance history.… But the tone is very dry, resembling more a learned paper than a handbook." Other critics appreciated Burrows's scholarly approach; Music and Letters's Peter Williams noted the author's ability "to produce a clear account of the different versions [of the Messiah ] and their amazing, unique history. He is master enough of the subject to wonder whether documentation can give false impressions, … and it is always a pleasure to see an expert challenging his sources of information." Swing also praised Burrows's scholarship, recommending his text to performers as well: "Burrows's comments on 'design' (thirteen pages) and 'individual movements' (seven pages) should be read by all performers of Messiah, and his comments on Handel's word-setting should discourage anyone from tampering with Handel's linguistic idiosyncrasies."

Writing about Burrows's next book, A Catalogue of Handel's Musical Autographs, Winton Dean of Music and Letters commented, "This portly volume is the work of a British and an American scholar who began to research the subject separately and then decided to collaborate, happily without dire results." Written with Martha J. Ronish, the book catalogs and analyzes the more than 8,700 surviving pages of music handwritten by Handel, and received the Music Library Association's Vincent H. Duckles Award in 1994, a prize recognizing the best book-length bibliography or other research tool. "In every way a monumental research tool, this volume provides Handel scholars with information previously available only through extensive study of the autographs themselves," noted C. Steven LaRue in Notes. In their introduction, the authors perform an in-depth examination of the autographs, addressing everything from the manufacturing of paper to the state of conservation, to whether or not Handel hand-ruled his musical staves. "Some excellent detective work allows Burrows and Ronish to trace changes in Handel's manuscripts due to binding when the main collection first came into the library of George III around 1772, to assess the state of the collection in the mid-nineteenth century, and to describe further changes in the early part of this century," wrote Richard G. King in the Journal of the American Musicological Society. LaRue also praised the authors for "providing the reader with the simplest and most straightforward path through what is an enormous amount of material." King recommended the book highly: "Any inquiry into Handel's music from a textual and, I would argue, critical point of view must necessarily begin here."

Burrows continued his Handel scholarship with the publication of his next book, a biography of Handel written for the "Master Musician" series that Music and Letters's Michael Talbot called "crammed with detailed and up-to-the-minute facts." "In his discussion of Handel's life, Burrows makes clear what is known and offers intelligent suggestions about what is not," wrote Graydon Beeks in Notes, who also commented that the author "writes clearly and engagingly." Other critics similarly praised Burrows for his readable style and abundance of detailed information. Although Oestreich felt that Burrows's prose was perhaps too scholarly, he noted that the author's "treatment of Handel's notorious borrowings from his own works and others' is nothing short of virtuosic." Beeks also appreciated Burrows's in-depth specialization: "He is especially successful in explaining how practical considerations influenced Handel's attempts to retain an audience for his works in the late 1730s and early 1740s, the period when he made the final transition from opera to oratorio." Talbot summarized the effectiveness of Burrows's biography, writing that "while the emphasis always rests on solid fact, there is enough cautious speculation in the book to stimulate many interesting lines of future enquiry."

Burrows followed Handel with The Cambridge Companion to Handel, in which he serves as editor of a collection of eighteen essays on Handel's life and music. The book, like much of his earlier work, aspires to engage people from all different levels of interest. "According to Donald Burrows's preface, the book's intended audience includes everyone from listeners and students to performers and historians," wrote Notes's John T. Winemiller; "Alas, this book will not (and probably could not) satisfy all of those readers. But it will prove useful to those among them who seek an updated survey of research on Handel and his music." Divided into three thematic sections—"Background," "The Music," and "The Music in Performance"—the essays touch on many subjects, from Handel's youth in Germany to the political and commercial facets of opera in London. Winemiller found the middle section to be the most rewarding, although he faulted the book for passing up "the valuable opportunity to illustrate how Handel creatively used and customized the forms and genres he inherited.… The editor perhaps should have asked his contributors to explore the genres through one or two more closely examined works." Early Music's Stanley Sadie, too, felt that the essays were "not entirely consistent in level, approach or indeed interest," but he concluded that "this book has much that Handelians will value."

Burrows collaborated with Rosemary Dunhill, the County Archivist for Hampshire, England, on his next book, Music and Theatre in Handel's World: The Family Papers of James Harris, 1732-1780. The two edited the large collection of the Salisbury's family's informal writings on the arts; James Harris, his wife, Elizabeth, and their children, James, Jr. and Louisa, all provided a formidable documentation of the music and culture of their time. Roger Savage, writing for the Times Literary Supplement, noted that the book gives "a consistently strong and vivid sense of the performing arts in London, the Shires and (from 1765 on) some Continental courtly centres, as seen by amiable representatives of a particular class: moneyed, leisured, enthusiastic, discriminating, keen on spoken drama … and in most cases decidedly musical." Among the notable musical figures appearing in the letters are Voltaire, Mozart (at eight years old), and, of course, Handel himself.

Burrows has published, along with the books mentioned above, a number of principal music editions of works by Handel and Elgar. These editions, like much of Burrows's work, are meant to meld historical scholarship with practical information for performing musicians. Evan Owens wrote in Notes that one such publication, Songs and Cantatas for Soprano and Continuo, "is that rara avis, a performing edition that also meets the highest scholarly standards of a critical edition."



American Record Guide, November-December, 1995, John W. Barker, review of Handel, p. 307.

Choice, March, 1992, P. G. Swing, review of Handel: Messiah, p. 1088.

Early Music, May, 2000, Stanley Sadie, "View of Handel," pp. 288-290.

Journal of the American Musicological Society, summer-fall, 1997, Richard G. King, review of A Catalogue of Handel's Musical Autographs, pp. 502-506.

Music and Letters, May, 1992, Peter Williams, review of Handel: Messiah, pp. 280-282; November, 1995, Winton Dean, review of A Catalogue of Handel's Musical Autographs, pp. 619-620; May, 1997, Michael Talbot, review of Handel, pp. 269-270.

New York Times, May 12, 1995, James R. Oestreich, "Behind All That Music, Who Was the Musician?," p. C31.

Notes, December, 1990, Evan Owens, review of Songs and Cantatas for Soprano and Continuo, pp. 563-565; June, 1996, C. Steven LaRue, review of A Catalogue of Handel's Musical Autographs, pp. 1168-1169; September, 1997, Graydon Beeks, review of Handel, pp. 71-72; March, 1999, John T. Winemiller, review of The Cambridge Companion to Handel, pp. 658-659.

Times Literary Supplement, October 2, 1992, Roger Norrington, review of Handel: Messiah, p. 17; August 2, 2002, Roger Savage, "Handel and the Hoarders: How Music, Drama, and Gossip Enriched Life in the Augustan Shires," p. 16.


Cambridge University Press,http://us.cambridge.org/ (May 27, 2003), reviews of The Cambridge Companion to Handel.

Open University Music Department,http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/music/ (May 27, 2003), biography of Donald Burrows.

Oxford University Press,http://www.oup-usa.org/ (May 27, 2003), descriptions of Handel, A Catalogue of Handel's Musical Autographs, and Music and Theatre in Handel's World.

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