George Friderich Haendel

George Frideric Handel (German: Georg Friedrich Händel; pronounced [ˈhɛndəl]) (23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759) was a German-English Baroque composer who is famous for his operas, oratorios, and concertos. Handel was born in Germany in the same year as JS Bach and Domenico Scarlatti. He received critical musical training in Italy before settling in London and becoming a naturalised British subject.[1] His works include Messiah, Water Music, and Music for the Royal Fireworks. He was strongly influenced by the techniques of the great composers of the Italian Baroque and the English composer Henry Purcell. Handel's music was well-known to many composers, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

Handel was born in Halle (which was then in the Duchy of Magdeburg, a province of Brandenburg-Prussia) to Georg and Dorothea (née Taust) Händel in 1685. His father, Georg Händel, 63 when his son was born, was an eminent barber-surgeon who also served as surgeon to the court of Saxe-Weissenfels and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. According to John Mainwaring, his first biographer, "Handel had discovered such a strong propensity to Music, that his father who always intended him for the study of the Civil Law, had reason to be alarmed.

He strictly forbade him to meddle with any musical instrument but Handel found means to get a little clavichord privately convey'd to a room at the top of the house. To this room he constantly stole when the family was asleep". At an early age Handel became a skillful performer on the harpsichord and pipe organ. One day Handel and his father went on a trip to Weissenfels to visit either his son (Handel's half-brother) Carl, or grandson (Handel's nephew) Georg Christian who was serving as a valet to Duke Johann Adolf I. According to legend, the young Handel attracted the attention of the Duke with his playing on the churchorgan. At his urging, Handel's father permitted him to take lessons in musical composition and keyboard technique from Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, the organist of the Lutheran Marienkirche.

From then on Handel learned about harmony and contemporary styles, analysed sheet music scores, learned to work fugue subjects and copy music. Sometimes he would take his teacher's place as organist for services. In 1698 Handel played for Frederick I of Prussia and met Giovanni Bononcini in Berlin; in 1701 Georg Philipp Telemann went to Halle to listen to the promising young man.
In 1702, following his father's wishes, Handel started studying law at the University of Halle; and also succeeded in getting an appointment as the organist at the local Protestant cathedral. After a year Handel seems to have been very unsatisfied and in 1703, he moved to Hamburg, accepting a position as violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the opera house. There he met Johann Mattheson, Christoph Graupner and Reinhard Keiser. His first two operas, Almira and Nero, were produced in 1705. He produced two other operas, Daphne and Florindo, in 1708. It is unclear if Handel directed these performances himself in the Oper am Gänsemarkt.

According to Mainwaring, in 1706 Handel travelled to Italy at the invitation of Ferdinando de' Medici, but Mainwaring must have been confused. It was Gian Gastone de' Medici, whom Handel had met in 1703/1704 in Hamburg. Ferdinando, who had succeeded in making Florence the musical capital of Italy, attracting the leading talents of his day, had a keen interest in opera. There Handel met the librettist Antonio Salvi, with whom he would collaborate. According to rumours at the time, he also had a love affair with Vittoria Tarquini, a singer. Handel left for Rome and, as opera was (temporarily) banned in the Papal States, composed sacred music for the Roman clergy; the famous Dixit Dominus (1707) is from this era. He also composed many cantatas in pastoral style for musical gatherings in the palace of Cardinals Pietro Ottoboni, Benedetto Pamphili and Carlo Colonna. Two oratorios, La Resurrezione and Il Trionfo del Tempo, were produced in a private setting for Ruspoli and Ottoboni in 1709 and 1710, respectively. Rodrigo, his first immature, but all-Italian opera, was produced in the Cocomero theatre in Florence in 1707. Agrippina was first produced in 1709 at Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, the prettiest theatre at Venice, owned by the Grimani's. The opera, with a libretto by cardinal Vincenzo Grimani, ran for an unprecedented 27 performances. It showed remarkable maturity and established Handel's reputation as a composer of opera. The audience, thunderstruck with the grandeur and sublimity of his style, applauded for Il caro Sassone.
In 1710, Handel became Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover, who would become King George I of Great Britain in 1714. He visited Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici and her husband in Düsseldorf on his way to London in 1710. With his opera Rinaldo, based on La Gerusalemme Liberata, Handel enjoyed great success, "but it is difficult to see why he lifted from old Italian works unless he was in a hurry". This work contains one of Handel's favourite arias, Cara sposa, amante cara. In 1712, Handel decided to settle permanently in England. He received a yearly income of £200 from Queen Anne after composing for her the Utrecht te Deum performed in 1713.
One of his most important patrons was the young and wealthy Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, who showed an early love of his music. For him he wrote Amadigi di Gaula, an unusual opera, featuring Nicolo Grimaldi and no voices lower than alto. In July of 1717 Handel's Water Music was performed more than three times on the Thames for the King and his guests, such as Anne Vaughan, the Duchess of Bolton, Countess Godolphin, Countess of Darlington and the Earl of Orkney. The barges, heading for Chelsea or Lambeth and leaving the party after midnight, used the tides of the river. The composition was successful in reconciling the king and Handel.

Handel spent the most carefree time of his life as house composer at Cannons in Middlesex and laid the cornerstone for his future choral compositions in the twelve Chandos Anthems. Romain Rolland stated that these anthems were as important for his oratorios as the cantatas were for his operas. Rolland also highly estimated Acis and Galatea, like Winton Dean, who wrote that "the music catches breath and disturbs the memory". During Handel's lifetime it was his most performed work.
Handel was a canny investor: he put money into South Sea stock in 1716 when prices were low and had sold up by 1720 when the South Sea credit bubble burst in one of the greatest financial cataclysms in fiscal history.
Following his recovery Handel focused on composing oratorios instead of opera. His Messiah was first performed at the New Music Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin, on 13 April 1742, with 26 boys and five men from the combined choirs of St Patrick's and Christ Church cathedrals participating.
In 1749 he composed Music for the Royal Fireworks; 12,000 people attended the performance.

In 1750 Handel arranged a performance of Messiah to benefit the Foundling Hospital. The performance was considered a great success and was followed by annual concerts that continued throughout his life. In recognition of his patronage, Handel was made a governor of the Hospital the day after his initial concert. He bequeathed a copy of Messiah to the institution upon his death. His involvement with the Foundling Hospital is today commemorated with a permanent exhibition in London's Foundling Museum, which also holds the Gerald Coke Handel Collection. In addition to the Foundling Hospital, Handel also gave to a charity that helped to assist impoverished musicians and their families. Also, during the summer of 1741, the Duke of Devonshire invited Handel to Dublin to give concerts for the benefit of local hospitals.

In August 1750, on a journey back from Germany to London, Handel was seriously injured in a carriage accident between The Hague and Haarlem in the Netherlands. In 1751 his eyesight started to fail in one eye. The cause was a cataract which was operated on by the great charlatan Chevalier Taylor. This led to uveitis and subsequent loss of vision. Jephtha was first performed on 26 February 1752; even though it was his last oratorio, it was no less a masterpiece than his earlier works. He died some eight years later in 1759 in London, at the age of 74, with his last attended performance being his own Messiah. More than three thousand mourners attended his funeral, which was given full state honours, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Handel never married, and kept his personal life private. He left a sizable estate at his death, worth £20,000, the bulk of which he bequeathed to a niece in Germany, with additional gifts to his other relations, servants, friends and favourite charities.

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