Georg Friedrich Handel

Georg Friedrich Handel
1685 - 1759
Country:United Kingdom


Händel Georg Friedrich was a German-English Baroque composer, who became internationally famous for his operas, oratorios, and concerti grossi. Handel was born in 1685, at Halle in Germany, in the same year when Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti were born.

Händel composed many musical works after he was strongly influenced by the musical techniques of the great composers of the Italian Baroque era, as well as the English composer Henry Purcell. Later on he and his work became well-known to many composers, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. His most successful works include Messiah, Water Music, and Music for the Royal Fireworks.

Handel was naturally gifted composer and displayed his considerable musical talent at the age of seven. He was also a skillful performer on the harpsichord and pipe organ. Throughout his life, Handel composed 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios, duets, numerous arias, chamber music, a large number of ecumenical pieces, odes, serenatas and sixteen organ concerti.

Handel’s Messiah oratorio with its "Hallelujah" chorus is among his most popular works in choral music and it is regarded as a masterpiece of the Christmas season. Handel became also popular for his sixteen keyboard suites, especially The Harmonious Blacksmith.

He introduced various uncommon musical instruments like: the viola d'amore, double bassoon, violetta marina, three trombones, clarinets or small high cornets or Tamerlano, the lute French horn (Water Music), lyrichord, viola da gamba, bell chimes, positive organ, and harp in his musical works.

Händel got his early education from Italy, but later on, he went to England in 1712, where he spent most of his life. He settled in here as a naturalized subject of the British crown on January 22, 1727.

Handel’s father was a distinguished citizen of Halle and was working as an eminent barber-surgeon. He also served as valet and barber to the courts of the Duchy of Saxe-Weissenfels and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. Therefore, his father did not want Handel to pursue a musical career. He wanted Handel to study law. While Handel's mother, Dorothea, encouraged his musical aspirations and wanted to see him as a great musician.

Thus, the young Handel hardly got permission to take music lessons based on musical composition and keyboard technique. He learned about harmony and contemporary styles from Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (the famous organist of Halle). He always analyzed scores and very attentively learned how to work with fugue subjects and copy music. On Handel’s 7th birthday his aunt, Anna, gave him a spinet, which he placed in the attic. Handel often liked to play it whenever he could, avoiding his father.

After the death of Handel’s father, his musical passion and progress was badly interrupted. So, in 1702, he decided to fulfill his father's wishes and began to study law at the University of Halle. Later on, he abandoned law for music, and started serving as an organist at the Protestant Cathedral.

In 1704, he went to Hamburg, and served as a violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the opera house. Here he met Johann Mattheson, Christoph Graupner and Reinhard Keiser and produced his first two operas namely Almira and Nero, in 1705. Later on he produced two more operas, Daphne and Florindo, that were produced in 1708.

During 1706–1709, Handel visited Italy at the invitation of Gian Gastone de' Medici, situated in Hamburg, and Medici had become acquainted with Handel. He also met with Medici's brother Ferdinando, who was a great musician of his time. Then he visited Rome and produced two oratorios, La Resurrezione and Il Trionfo del Tempo, in a private setting for Ruspoli and Ottoboni, in 1709 and 1710, respectively.

In 1710, Handel became Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover and visited Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici on his way to London. Here he settled permanently in 1712, due to his yearly based income of £200 from Queen Anne.

In July of 1717, Handel firstly performed his Water Music for a water party on the Thames. The composition of this music was written and performed as reconciliation between the king and Handel.

In 1726 Handel completed his most famous opera namely; Scipio, which was performed for the first time for the regimental slow march of the British Grenadier Guards.

In 1727, Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the coronation ceremony of King George II. Handel also composed a wedding anthem for the Princess of Orange in March of 1734. He also had a long association with the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, where many of Handel’s Italian operas were premiered.

In 1737, Handel became temporarily paralyzed at age 52, this stock prevent Handel from performing. In the same year, he also complained for shortsightedness and difficulty in focusing his sight. Then he went to Aachen, Germany for getting recovery. Here he eventually played the organ for the local audience. After all having lost a fortune in operatic management, he gave up the business in 1740.

In his last years, he focused on composing oratorios instead of opera. His Messiah was first performed in New Musick Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin on 13th of April in 1742.

In 1749, he composed Music for the Royal Fireworks; at that time there were approximately, 12,000 people of audience who came to listen to Handel’s music.

Handel never married in his whole life and kept his personal life very private. He died on 14th of April in 1759. Unlike many composers, he left a sizable estate at his death, approximately, worth £20,000, which was an enormous amount for those days. This whole money was gifted to Handel’s relations, servants, and friends. Most of his estate was donated as charities.

After Handel’s death, Italian operas fell into obscurity. No doubt, Handel’s got much popularity throughout one an half century, particularly in the Anglophone era. He has generally been accorded with high esteem by fellow composers, both in his own time and since after him. After Handel’s death, many talented composers tried to compose music based on his musical form but no one could even produce a single musical composition similar to Handel’s work.

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Chamber music

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