About George Frideric
Born Georg Frederich Handel in 1685, the second son to the physician
Georg Handel who was well over 60 years of age and married for the
second time. The senior Handel was distinguished in Halle and the court
of Saxe Weissenfels, and was acquainted with many of the court
musicians. Even though young Georg exhibited much talent at an early
age, his father insisted that he pursue the legal profession and refused
to support any musical training at all.
|Fortunately, when he was seven, he was heard trying out the organ by
the duke and his Kapellmeister Johann Phillip Krieger while on a
visit to the court at Weissenfels. Both pressed the senior Handel to
provide musical training for his young son. When they returned to Halle,
Georg was enrolled in the municipal school for regular studies, but his
father did allow him to take harpsichord lessons. This training provided
excellent grounding, which can be seen in a manuscript notebook dated
1698 that Handel kept all of his life.
Remaining true to his father even after his death in1697, Handel
continued his legal studies. He entered the university in February of
1702, and in March was appointed temporary organist in the cathedral.
Handel allowed himself to become more involved in Halle’s musical scene.
In March 1703, Handel left his legal studies and moved to Hamburg.
Passing through Hanover he met Agostino Steffani.
Hamburg, Handel successfully produced two operas in 1705
and also worked as a violinist in the opera orchestra.
Unfortunately the theater was experiencing difficulties
and he traveled to Italy in 1706 to try his luck there.
Handel traveled extensively throughout Italy building
his reputation as a composer and keyboard virtuoso. He
produced the opera Rodrigo at Florence in 1706
and Agrippina at Venice in 1709. Shortly
thereafter he accepted the post of Kappelmeister
at the court at Hanover, influenced by his friend
Agostino Steffani. After obtaining a leave from the
court, he arrived in London in December 1710 where he
wrote the Italian opera Rinaldo in 15 days, which
was well received. Due to its success, Handel was
granted a second leave from Hanover. During this period
he composed, by the order of Queen Anne, his Te Deum to
celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht.
Handel stayed in England in the household of Lord
Burlington until the sudden death of Queen Anne in
August 1714, and George, Elector of Hanover, was crowned
George I. Handel regained favor with the crown with the
success of Amadigi and was invited to accompany
the king on a visit to Hanover in July 1716. During this
period, Handel became a naturalized British subject and
changed his name to George Frideric Handel.
From 1717 to 1720 George directed the private chapel
of the duke of Chandos. From 1720 to 1728 he was
involved in the Royal Academy of Music at the Haymarket
Theatre, for the performance of Italian opera. Quarrels,
rivalries, and disputes between the actors ended the
group at the completion of the 1728 season. During this
troubled period, Handel wrote the four anthems for the
coronation of George II, including Zadok the Priest,
which has been performed at every British coronation
|While in Venice to recruit singers for a joint
venture with the Haymarket Theatre manager, Handel was called to
the side of his ailing mother in Halle where he spent a year.
Upon his return to London he took up the fight for the
acceptance of Italian opera, writing two or three operas a year
in competition with the ‘Opera of the Nobility’ sponsored by the
Prince of Wales. During this period he struggled with illness
and bankruptcy trying to impose Italian opera on a mostly
hostile public. But he also produced two oratorios, Esther
and Deborah, and returning to this style he completed
Messiah which was first heard at Dublin in April 1742.
|For four more years, he suffered
London’s hostility. But Handel triumphed with the
Occasional Oratorio written in 1746 ‘to encourage
the English resistance’ to the Stuarts, and Judas
Maccabaeus written in 1747 to celebrate the Battle
In 1748 after completing the last act of
Jephtha Handel submitted to three cataract
operations in an unsuccessful attempt to stem his
worsening blindness. His last seven years were spent
mostly in solitude and contemplation. He would
occasionally play an organ concerto during the
intermission of a performance of one of his oratorios.
Following his last performance on April 6, 1759 where
he played the harpsichord at a performance of
Messiah, he became bed ridden and said in his final
hours, "I wish I may die on Good Friday, in the hope of
meeting my dear Lord and Savior on the day of His
Handel died on Saturday, April 14, 1759, at the age
of 74. He is buried in the Poets Corner at Westminster
Abbey in London.
The Larousse Encyclopedia of Music, Published by the
World Publishing Company
© The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited 1971
Library of Congress catalog card number: 70-147888