A History of Handel


Georg Friedrich Handel was one of the most accomplished Baroque 
composers in his time. Born in Halle, Germany in 1685, he was the son 
of a wealthy barber who wanted his son to become a lawyer. However, 
he displayed such musical aptitude with the harpsichord, organ, oboe, 
counterpoint and fugue, he became an assistant with Friedrich Zachav, 
organist of the cathedral of Halle. However, Handel entered the 
University of Halle, but quickly withdrew, and left for the University 
of Hamburg, to study music. 

 In 1706, Handel journeyed to Italy to further enhance his music. 
 While there, he was greatly influenced by Alessandro Scarlatti and 
Arcangelo Corelli. Then in 1710, Handel was appointed 
"Kapellmeister," or Musical Director, to the Elector of Hanover, and 
received a commission to write an opera for London. Italian opera was 
all the rage in London, and Handel's soon became a quick success. 
However, Handel greatly longed for being in England, and returned in 
1712. London provided a generous audience for Handel, and from 1712 
to 1741 he produced thirty-six operas. In 1713, Te Deum and a 
Jubilate was performed by Handel at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, to 
celebrate the Peace of Utrecht. Queen Anne also granted Handel a 
handsome lifetime pension of two hundred pounds per year. Including 
Water Music, for George I, which was first performed in 1715 on the 
Thames at London. 

 While most of Handel's operas were based on either historical, 
mythological, or legendary subjects, Serse, was one of his rare 
endeavors into comedy. Handel's operas were all sung in Italian, and 
adhere to the musical conventions of the day. There is little use of 
choruses or large ensembles, since one of the main objectives of this 
genre, called 'opera seria,' is the demonstration of vocal ability by 
individual singers. Also, for 18th century audiences, the main 
attraction in Handel's operas lay in the incredible feats of the 
'castrati,' male singers whose soprano voices had been surgically 
preserved from childhood. These artists combined the soprano voices 
of women and the lung power of men, producing singers whose vocal 
feats became legendary. 

 In England, Handel tried to start opera companies on a number of 
occasions, but these attempts to become a music executive failed 
miserably. On account the gradual decline in popularity of Italian 
opera in England, Handel turned to writing oratorios, which became the 
preferred taste. These works, sung in English, take their texts from 
the Bible. Handel's most famous oratorio, his best-known work in any 
genre, is Messiah, written in 1742. In addition to operas and 
oratorios, he wrote passions, secular choral pieces, anthems, 
cantatas, chamber sonatas, harpsichord suites, concerti, and 
orchestral pieces. 

 Beyond composition, Handel was the first the real businessman in 
the world of music. He had a hand in organizing opera companies, 
obtaining financial support, and finding singers. He was also in 
constant demand at parties where he entertained guests with his lusty 
personality and exceptional abilities the keyboard. Of all composers, 
Handel was probably the most esteemed and appreciated in his own time. 
He rose to a position of the highest eminence in the musical world. 
His oratorios were the toast of the country, and of the continent as 
well. Toward the end of his life, Handel was plagued by ill health. 
From 1753, he was totally blind, though this did not stop his 
activities altogether. He died in 1759, and was buried with full 
state honors in Westminster Abbey. 


BMG Music. "Classics World Biography: George Frederich Handel." 

Internet. October 4 1998. Available WWW: 

Brimhall, John. My Favorite Classics. Miami Beach, FL.: Chas. H. 
Hansen Music Corp., 1969


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