Handel: 15 facts about the great composer
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Almost blind, and having lived in England for nearly fifty years, he died in , a respected and rich man. His funeral was given full state honours, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.
Born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti , Handel is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with works such as Messiah , Water Music , and Music for the Royal Fireworks remaining steadfastly popular. Another of his English oratorios, Solomon , has also remained popular, with the Sinfonia that opens act 3 known more commonly as "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" featuring at the London Olympics opening ceremony.
Handel composed more than forty operas in over thirty years, and since the late s, with the revival of baroque music and historically informed musical performance , interest in Handel's operas has grown. Georg Händel —97 was the son of a coppersmith, Valentin Händel, who had emigrated from Eisleben in with his first wife Anna Belching, the daughter of a master coppersmith.
They were Protestants and chose reliably Protestant Saxony over Silesia , a Hapsburg possession, as religious tensions mounted in the years before the Thirty Years War.
The arts and music, however, flourished only among the higher strata not only in Halle but throughout Germany ,  of which Handel's family was not a member. Georg Händel senior was born at the beginning of the war, and was apprenticed to a barber in Halle at the age of 14, after his father died. With this, Georg determinedly began the process of becoming self-made; by dint of his "conservative, steady, thrifty, unadventurous" lifestyle,  he guided the five children he had with Anna who reached adulthood into the medical profession except his youngest daughter, who married a government official.
Bartholomew in Giebichtenstein,  who himself came from a long line of Lutheran pastors. Mainwaring is the source for almost all information little as it is of Handel's childhood, and much of that information came from J. Mainwaring writes that Georg Händel was "alarmed" at Handel's very early propensity for music, [h] "took every measure to oppose it", including forbidding any musical instrument in the house and preventing Handel from going to any house where they might be found.
Mainwaring tells the story of Handel's secret attic spinet: 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".
Sometime between the ages of seven and nine, Handel accompanied his father to Weissenfels where he came under the notice of one whom Handel thereafter always regarded throughout life as his benefactor,  Duke Johann Adolf I.
Zachow would be the only teacher that Handel ever had. With respect to instruction in composition, in addition to having Handel apply himself to traditional fugue and cantus firmus work, Zachow, recognizing Handel's precocious talents, systematically introduced Handel to the variety of styles and masterworks contained in his extensive library.
He did this by requiring Handel to copy selected scores. Although it has since disappeared, the notebook has been sufficiently described to understand what pieces Zachow wished Handel to study. Among the chief composers represented in this exercise book were Johann Krieger , an "old master" in the fugue and prominent organ composer, Johann Caspar Kerll , a representative of the "southern style" after his teacher Frescobaldi and imitated later by Handel, [k] Johann Jakob Froberger , an "internationalist" also closely studied by Buxtehude and Bach , and Georg Muffat , whose amalgam of French and Italian styles and his synthesis of musical forms influenced Handel.
Mainwaring writes that during this time Zachow had begun to have Handel assume some of his church duties. Zachow, Mainwaring asserts, was "often" absent, "from his love of company, and a chearful glass", and Handel therefore performed on organ frequently. Handel's father died on 11 February Mainwaring has Handel traveling to Berlin the next year, Early biographers solved the problem by making the year of the trip , then noting that at the age of 11 Handel would need a guardian, so they have Handel's father or a friend of the family accompany him, all the while puzzling over why the elder Handel, who wanted Handel to become a lawyer, would spend the sum to lead his son further into the temptation of music as a career.
Perhaps to fulfill a promise to his father or simply because he saw himself as "dedicated to the liberal arts," on 10 February Handel matriculated at the University of Halle. A firm Lutheran, he nevertheless strongly advocated the separation of church and state, famously denouncing the witch trials then prevalent. Lang believes that Thomasius instilled in Handel a "respect for the dignity and freedom of man's mind and the solemn majesty of the law," principles that would have drawn him to and kept him in England for half a century.
The orphanage he founded became a model for Germany, and undoubtedly influenced Handel's own charitable impulse, when he assigned the rights of Messiah to London's Foundling Hospital. Shortly after commencing his university education, Handel though Lutheran [o] on 13 March accepted the position of organist at the Calvinist Cathedral in Halle, the Domkirche, replacing J.
Leporin, for whom he had acted as assistant. From it he received 5 thalers a year and lodgings in the run-down castle of Moritzburg. Around this same time Handel made the acquaintance of Telemann. Four years Handel's senior, Telemann was studying law and assisting cantor Johann Kuhnau Bach 's predecessor at the Thomaskirche there. Telemann recalled forty years later in an autobiography for Mattheson's Grundlage: Although Mainwaring records that Handel wrote weekly when assistant to Zachow and as probationary organist at Domkirche part of his duty was to provide suitable music, [p] no sacred compositions from his Halle period can now be identified.
Early chamber works do exist, but it is difficult to date any of them to Handel's time in Halle. Many historians until recently followed Chrysander and designated the six trio sonatas for two oboes and basso continuo as his first known composition, supposedly written in when Handel was Lang writes that the works "show thorough acquaintance with the distilled sonata style of the Corelli school " and are notable for "the formal security and the cleanness of the texture.
Handel's probationary appointment to Domkirche expired in March By July [q] Handel was in Hamburg. Since he left no explanation for the move [r] biographers have offered their own speculation. Burrows believes that the answer can be found by untangling Mainwaring's confused chronology of the trip to Berlin. Burrows dates this trip to or after his father's death and concluded that since Handel through a "friend and relation" at the Berlin court turned down Frederick's offer to subsidize his musical education in Italy with the implicit understanding that he would become a court musician on his return , Handel was no longer able to expect preferment whether as musician, lawyer or otherwise within Brandenburg-Prussia.
And since he was attracted to secular, dramatic music by meeting the Italians Bononcini and Attilio Ariosti and through the influence of Telemann , Hamburg, a free city with an established opera company, was the logical choice.
Lang suggests that, influenced by the teachings of Thomasius, Handel's character was such that he was unable to make himself subservient to anyone, even a king. Lang sees Handel as someone who could not accept class distinctions that required him to regard himself as a social inferior. In he accepted a position as violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the Hamburg Oper am Gänsemarkt.
His first two operas, Almira and Nero , were produced in It is unclear whether Handel directed these performances. According to Mainwaring, in Handel travelled to Italy at the invitation of Ferdinando de' Medici. In Italy Handel met librettist Antonio Salvi , with whom he later collaborated. Handel left for Rome and, since opera was temporarily banned in the Papal States , composed sacred music for the Roman clergy.
His famous Dixit Dominus is from this era. He also composed cantatas in pastoral style for musical gatherings in the palaces 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 and , respectively. Rodrigo , his first all-Italian opera, was produced in the Cocomero theatre in Florence in The opera, with a libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani , ran for 27 nights successively.
With his opera Rinaldo , based on La Gerusalemme Liberata by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso , Handel enjoyed great success, although it was composed quickly, with many borrowings from his older Italian works.
In , Handel decided to settle permanently in England. One of his most important patrons was The 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork , a young and extremely wealthy member of an Anglo-Irish aristocratic family. The conception of an opera as a coherent structure was slow to capture Handel's imagination  and he composed no operas for five years. It is said the compositions spurred reconciliation between Handel and the King, supposedly annoyed by the composer's abandonment of his Hanover post.
In Handel became house composer at Cannons in Middlesex , where he laid the cornerstone for his future choral compositions in the twelve Chandos Anthems. Winton Dean wrote, "the music catches breath and disturbs the memory". In the Duke of Chandos became one of the composer's important patrons and main subscribers to his new opera company, the Royal Academy of Music , but his patronage declined after Chandos lost money in the South Sea bubble , which burst in in one of history's greatest financial cataclysms.
Handel himself invested in South Sea stock in , when prices were low  and sold before He saw Teofane by Antonio Lotti , and engaged members of the cast for the Royal Academy of Music, founded by a group of aristocrats to assure themselves a constant supply of baroque opera or opera seria.
Handel may have invited John Smith, his fellow student in Halle, and his son Johann Christoph Schmidt , to become his secretary and amanuensis. Handel's operas are filled with da capo arias , such as Svegliatevi nel core. After composing Silete venti , he concentrated on opera and stopped writing cantatas. Scipio , from which the regimental slow march of the British Grenadier Guards is derived,  was performed as a stopgap, waiting for the arrival of Faustina Bordoni.
One of these, Zadok the Priest , has been played at every British coronation ceremony since. The Queen's Theatre at the Haymarket now Her Majesty's Theatre , established in by architect and playwright John Vanbrugh , quickly became an opera house. Handel travelled to Italy to engage new singers and also composed seven more operas, among them the comic masterpiece Partenope and the "magic" opera Orlando. Handel reworked his Acis and Galatea which then became his most successful work ever.
Handel failed to compete with the Opera of the Nobility , who engaged musicians such as Johann Adolph Hasse , Nicolo Porpora and the famous castrato Farinelli. The strong support by Frederick, Prince of Wales caused conflicts in the royal family. Despite the problems the Opera of the Nobility was causing him at the time, Handel's neighbour in Brook Street, Mary Delany , reported on a party she invited Handel to at her house on 12 April where he was in good spirits:. Well, if someone has to tinker with it, it may as well be Mozart….
Even though he was German-born and educated, the Brits like to claim Handel for their own. He was fond of his home in 25 Brook Street, London, and Londoners were equally fond of him, as evidenced by Slap-bang in the middle of Mayfair is a permanent monument to Handel's life and music - his house.
It has been lovingly restored to look exactly how Handel would've kept when he lived there from until his death in Handel was such a popular opera composer that he was allowed to pick his own leading ladies.
However, this perk led to an almighty bust-up between sopranos Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni, two rival singers of the day, who ended up having a scrap on stage during a performance of Bononcini's Astianatte.
They both had to be dragged off stage to stop them pulling bits off each other's costumes. Some of Handel's biggest and best works were composed in the latter stages of his life. That might not sound too impressive, but then again he did suffer from a stroke in , was involved in a coach crash in and had cataracts and eventually went blind after a botched eye operation During the first London performance of Handel's Messiah, King George II stood up as soon as the Hallelujah chorus kicked in - after that, it became traditional for audiences to stand for this famous chorus.
Handel's final oratorio, Jephtha, was a heartbreaking experience for the composer. He was going rapidly blind as he wrote it, eventually leading him to write on the score: In Handel returned to Germany to become court composer in Hannover. English audiences took to his opera Rinaldo, and several years later Handel moved to England permanently. He impressed King George early on with the Water Music of , written as entertainment for a royal boat outing. Through the s Handel composed Italian operatic masterpieces for London stages: Ottone, Serse Xerxes , and other works often based on classical stories.
In the s and s Handel turned to the oratorio which displayed to maximum effect Handel's melodic gift and the sense of timing he brought to big choral numbers. In Handel suffered a stroke, which caused both temporary paralysis in his right arm and some loss of his mental faculties. Blind in old age, Handel continued to compose. He died in London on April 14, Beethoven thought Handel the greatest of all his predecessors; he once said, "I would bare my head and kneel at his grave".
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