George Frideric Handel
Overview
 
George Frideric Handel (German: Georg Friedrich Händel; ˈhɛndəl) (23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759) was a German-British Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 composer, famous for his operas, oratorio
Oratorio
An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias...

s, anthems and organ concerto
Concerto
A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

s. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music. He received critical musical training in Halle, Hamburg and Italy before settling in London (1712) and becoming a naturalised British subject in 1727.
Encyclopedia
George Frideric Handel (German: Georg Friedrich Händel; ˈhɛndəl) (23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759) was a German-British Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 composer, famous for his operas, oratorio
Oratorio
An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias...

s, anthems and organ concerto
Concerto
A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

s. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music. He received critical musical training in Halle, Hamburg and Italy before settling in London (1712) and becoming a naturalised British subject in 1727. By then he was strongly influenced by the great composers of the Italian Baroque
Italian Baroque
Italian Baroque is a term referring to a stylistic period in Italian history and art which spanned from the late 16th century to the early 18th century.-History:...

 and the middle-German polyphonic
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

 choral tradition.

Within fifteen years, Handel, a dramatic genius, started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera, but the public came to hear the vocal bravura of the soloists rather than the music. In 1737 he had a physical breakdown, changed direction creatively and addressed the middle class. As Alexander's Feast
Alexander's Feast (Handel)
Alexander's Feast is an ode with music by George Frideric Handel set to a libretto by Newburgh Hamilton. Hamilton adapted his libretto from John Dryden's ode Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music which had been written to celebrate Saint Cecilia's Day...

 (1736) was well received, Handel made a transition to English choral works. After his success with Messiah
Messiah (Handel)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later...

 (1742) he never performed an Italian opera again. Handel was only partly successful with his performances of English Oratorio on mythical or biblical themes, but when he arranged a performance of Messiah to benefit the Foundling Hospital
Foundling Hospital
The Foundling Hospital in London, England was founded in 1741 by the philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram. It was a children's home established for the "education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children." The word "hospital" was used in a more general sense than it is today, simply...

 (1750) the critique ended. The pathos of Handel's oratorio is an ethical one, they are hallowed not by liturgical dignity but by the moral ideals of humanity. Almost blind, and having lived in England for almost fifty years, he died a respected and rich man.

Handel is regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time, not only because of his Water Music
Water Music (Handel)
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often considered three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717 after King George I had requested a concert on the River Thames...

, and Music for the Royal Fireworks. But since the late 1960s, with the revival of baroque music and original instrument interest in Handel's opera seria
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

 has revived too. Handel composed forty operas in about thirty years; some are considered as masterpiece
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

s, with many sweeping arias and much admired improvisations. His operas contain remarkable human characterization, by a composer not known for his love affairs.

Early years

Handel was born in 1685 in Halle
Halle, Saxony-Anhalt
Halle is the largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish it from the town of Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia...

, Duchy of Magdeburg
Duchy of Magdeburg
The Duchy of Magdeburg was a province of Brandenburg-Prussia from 1680 to 1701 and a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1701 to 1807. It replaced the Archbishopric of Magdeburg after its secularization by Brandenburg. The duchy's capitals were Magdeburg and Halle, while Burg was another...

, to Georg Händel
Georg Händel
Georg Händel was a barber-surgeon and the father of Georg Frideric Handel. As a young man he had to stop attending grammar school when his father Valentin died and had to give up his aspirations to become a lawyer...

 and Dorothea Taust. His father, 63 when his son was born, was an eminent barber-surgeon
Barber surgeon
The barber surgeon was one of the most common medical practitioners of medieval Europe - generally charged with looking after soldiers during or after a battle...

 who served to the court of Saxe-Weissenfels
Saxe-Weissenfels
Saxe-Weissenfels was a duchy of the Holy Roman Empire from 1656/7 until 1746 with its residence at Weißenfels. Ruled by a cadet branch of the Albertine House of Wettin, the duchy passed to the Electorate of Saxony upon the extinction of the line....

 and the Margraviate of Brandenburg
Margraviate of Brandenburg
The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806. Also known as the March of Brandenburg , it played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe....

. According to Handel's first biographer, John Mainwaring
John Mainwaring
John Mainwaring was an English theologian and the first biographer of the composer Georg Friedrich Händel in any language. He was a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, and became rector of the parish of Church Stretton, Shropshire, and, later professor of Divinity at Cambridge...

, he "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
Clavichord
The clavichord is a European stringed keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was widely used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces...

 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 skilful performer on the harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

 and pipe organ
Pipe organ
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...

.

Handel and his father travelled to Weissenfels to visit either Handel's half-brother, Carl, or nephew, Georg Christian, who was serving as valet
Valet
Valet and varlet are terms for male servants who serve as personal attendants to their employer.- Word origins :In the Middle Ages, the valet de chambre to a ruler was a prestigious appointment for young men...

 to Duke Johann Adolf I
Johann Adolf I, Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels
Johann Adolf I, Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels , was a duke of Saxe-Weissenfels-Querfurt and member of the House of Wettin....

. Handel and the duke convinced his father to allow him to take lessons in musical composition and keyboard technique from Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, the organist of the Lutheran Marienkirche. He learned about harmony
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 and contemporary styles, analysed sheet music
Sheet music
Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols; like its analogs—books, pamphlets, etc.—the medium of sheet music typically is paper , although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on computer screens...

 scores, learned to work fugue
Fugue
In music, a fugue is a compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition....

 subjects, and to copy music. In 1698 Handel played for Frederick I of Prussia
Frederick I of Prussia
Frederick I , of the Hohenzollern dynasty, was Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia in personal union . The latter function he upgraded to royalty, becoming the first King in Prussia . From 1707 he was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 and met Giovanni Battista Bononcini
Giovanni Battista Bononcini
Giovanni Battista Bononcini was an Italian Baroque composer and cellist, one of a family of string players and composers. His father, Giovanni Maria Bononcini , was a violinist and a composer.-Biography:...

 in Berlin.

From Halle to Italy

In 1702, following his father's wishes, Handel started studying law under Christian Thomasius
Christian Thomasius
Christian Thomasius was a German jurist and philosopher.- Biography :He was born at Leipzig and was educated by his father, Jakob Thomasius , at that time head master of Thomasschule zu Leipzig...

 at the University of Halle; and also earned an appointment for one year as the organist in the former cathedral, by then an evangelical reformed church. Handel seems to have been unsatisfied and in 1703, he accepted a position as violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

ist and harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

ist in the orchestra of the Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

  opera house
Hamburg State Opera
The Hamburg State Opera is one of the leading opera companies in Germany.Opera in Hamburg dates back to 2 January 1678 when the "Opern-Theatrum" was inaugurated with a performance of a biblical Singspiel by Johann Theile...

. There he met the composers Johann Mattheson
Johann Mattheson
Johann Mattheson was a German composer, writer, lexicographer, diplomat and music theorist.Mattheson was born and died in Hamburg. He was a close friend of George Frideric Handel, although he nearly killed him in a sudden quarrel, during a performance of Mattheson's opera Cleopatra in 1704...

, Christoph Graupner
Christoph Graupner
Christoph Graupner was a German harpsichordist and composer of high Baroque music who lived and worked at the same time as Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann and George Frideric Handel.-Graupner's life:Born in Hartmannsdorf near Kirchberg in Saxony, Graupner received his first musical...

 and Reinhard Keiser
Reinhard Keiser
Reinhard Keiser was a popular German opera composer based in Hamburg. He wrote over a hundred operas, and in 1745 Johann Adolph Scheibe considered him an equal to Johann Kuhnau, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann , but his work was largely forgotten for many...

. His first two operas, Almira
Almira
Almira, Königin von Castilien or Der in Krohnen erlangte Glückswechsel, is George Frideric Handel's first opera.-Background:Handel came to the city of Hamburg in the summer of 1703 and played as a violinist in the theatre at the Gänsemarkt, the local market place...

 and Nero, were produced in 1705. He produced two other operas, Daphne and Florindo
Florindo
Der beglückte Florindo is an opera composed by Handel at the request of Reinhard Keiser, the manager of the Hamburg Opera. It was first performed at the Theater am Gänsemarkt in January 1708...

, in 1708. It is unclear whether Handel directed these performances.

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 tried to make Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 Italy's musical capital, attracting the leading talents of his day. He had a keen interest in opera. In Italy Handel met librettist Antonio Salvi
Antonio Salvi
Antonio Salvi was an Italian physician, court poet and librettist. He was in the service of the ducal court in Florence and the favourite librettist of Prince Ferdinando de' Medici. Salvi was one of the developers of the opera seria.- Life :Salvi was a court physician in Florence for the De'...

, with whom he later collaborated. Handel left for Rome and, since opera was (temporarily) banned in the Papal States
Papal States
The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

, composed sacred music for the Roman clergy. His famous Dixit Dominus
Dixit Dominus (Handel)
Dixit Dominus is a psalm setting by George Friederic Handel . It uses the Latin text of Psalm 110 , which begins with the words Dixit Dominus ....

 (1707) is from this era. He also composed cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

s in pastoral
Pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

 style for musical gatherings in the palaces of cardinals Pietro Ottoboni, Benedetto Pamphili
Benedetto Pamphili
Benedetto Pamphili was an Italian cardinal, patron of the arts, composer and librettist.-Life:...

 and Carlo Colonna
Colonna family
The Colonna family is an Italian noble family; it was powerful in medieval and Renaissance Rome, supplying one Pope and many other Church and political leaders...

. Two oratorio
Oratorio
An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias...

s, La Resurrezione
La Resurrezione
La resurrezione is a sacred oratorio by George Frideric Handel, set to a libretto by Carlo Sigismondo Capece . Capece was court poet to Queen Maria Casimira of Poland, who was living in exile in Rome. It was first performed on the Easter Sunday of 1708 at Rome, with the backing of the Marchese...

 and Il Trionfo del Tempo, were produced in a private setting for Ruspoli and Ottoboni in 1709 and 1710, respectively. Rodrigo
Rodrigo (opera)
Rodrigo is an opera in three acts composed by George Frideric Handel. Its original title was Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria . The opera is based on the historical figure of Rodrigo, the last Visigothic king of Hispania...

, his first all-Italian opera, was produced in the Cocomero theatre
Theatres in Florence
There are about thirty theatres in Florence, Italy , and range from historic theatres, and national and municipal music halls....

 in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 in 1707. Agrippina
Agrippina (opera)
Agrippina is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel, from a libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani. Composed for the Venice Carnevale season, the opera tells the story of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, as she plots the downfall of the Roman Emperor Claudius and the installation of...

 was first produced in 1709 at Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo
Teatro Malibran
The Teatro Malibran, formerly known as the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, is an opera house in Venice known for its operatic importance in the 17th and 18th centuries...

, the prettiest theatre at Venice, owned by the Grimanis. The opera, with a libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 by cardinal Vincenzo Grimani
Vincenzo Grimani
Vincenzo Grimani was an Italian cardinal, diplomat, and opera librettist.Grimani was born either in Venice or Mantua....

, and according to Mainwaring it ran for 27 nights successively. The audience, thunderstruck with the grandeur and sublimity of his style, applauded for Il caro Sassone.

Move to London

In 1710, Handel became Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister . The words Kapelle and Meister derive from the Latin: capella and magister...

 to German prince George, Elector
Prince-elector
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

 of Hanover
Hanover
Hanover or Hannover, on the river Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony , Germany and was once by personal union the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain, under their title as the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg...

, who in 1714 would become King George I of Great Britain
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

. He visited Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici
Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici
Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici was the last scion of the House of Medici. A patron of the arts, she bequeathed the Medici's large art collection, including the contents of the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti and the Medicean villas, which she inherited upon her brother Gian Gastone's death in 1737, and her...

 and her husband in Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf is the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and centre of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.Düsseldorf is an important international business and financial centre and renowned for its fashion and trade fairs. Located centrally within the European Megalopolis, the...

 on his way to London in 1710. With his opera Rinaldo
Rinaldo (opera)
Rinaldo is an opera by George Frideric Handel composed in 1711. It is the first Italian language opera written specifically for the London stage. The libretto was prepared by Giacomo Rossi from a scenario provided by Aaron Hill. The work was first performed at the Queen's Theatre in London's...

, based on La Gerusalemme Liberata
Jerusalem Delivered
Jerusalem Delivered is an epic poem by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso first published in 1581, which tells a largely mythified version of the First Crusade in which Catholic knights, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, battle Muslims in order to take Jerusalem...

 by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso
Torquato Tasso
Torquato Tasso was an Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata , in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade, during the siege of Jerusalem...

, 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, and the famous Lascia ch'io pianga
Lascia ch'io pianga
Lascia ch'io pianga is a soprano aria by composer George Frideric Handel which has become a popular concert piece. The melody for the song began its life as an Asian dance in his 1705 opera Almira. As an aria the piece was first used in Handel's 1707 oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno;...

.

In 1712, Handel decided to settle permanently in England. He received a yearly income of £200 from Queen Anne
Anne of Great Britain
Anne ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Act of Union, two of her realms, England and Scotland, were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.Anne's Catholic father, James II and VII, was deposed during the...

 after composing for her the Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate
Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate
Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate is a sacred choral composition in two parts, written by George Frideric Handel to celebrate the Treaty of Utrecht, which established the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, ending the War of the Spanish Succession. The combination of a Te Deum and Jubilate, the Psalm 100, follows...

, first performed in 1713.

One of his most important patrons was the young and wealthy Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington
Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington
Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork PC , born in Yorkshire, England, was the son of Charles Boyle, 2nd Earl of Burlington and 3rd Earl of Cork...

. For him Handel wrote Amadigi di Gaula
Amadigi di Gaula
Amadigi di Gaula is a magical opera in three acts, with music by George Frideric Handel. It was the fifth Italian opera that Handel wrote for London and was composed during his stay at Burlington House in 1715...

, a magic
Magician (fantasy)
A magician, mage, sorcerer, sorceress, wizard, enchanter, enchantress, thaumaturge or a person known under one of many other possible terms is someone who uses or practices magic that derives from supernatural or occult sources...

al opera, about a damsel in distress
Damsel in distress
The subject of the damsel in distress, or persecuted maiden, is a classic theme in world literature, art, and film. She is usually a beautiful young woman placed in a dire predicament by a villain or monster and who requires a hero to achieve her rescue. She has become a stock character of fiction,...

, based on the tragedy by Antoine Houdar de la Motte
Antoine Houdar de la Motte
Antoine Houdar de la Motte was a French author.He was born and died in Paris. In 1693 his comedy, Les Originaux, was a complete failure, and so depressed the author that he contemplated joining the Trappists. Four years later he began writing texts for operas and ballets, e.g...

.

The conception of an opera as a coherent structure was slow to capture Handel's imagination and he renounced it for five years. In July 1717 Handel's Water Music
Water Music (Handel)
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often considered three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717 after King George I had requested a concert on the River Thames...

 was performed more than three times on the Thames for the King and his guests. It is said the compositions spurred reconciliation between the King and Handel.

Cannons (1717–18)

In 1717 Handel became house composer at Cannons
Cannons (house)
Cannons was a stately home in Little Stanmore, Middlesex built for James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos between 1713 and 1724 at a cost of £200,000 but which in 1747 was razed and its contents dispersed....

 in Middlesex, where he laid the cornerstone for his future choral compositions in the twelve Chandos
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos
James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, MP, PC was the first of fourteen children by Sir James Brydges, 3rd Baronet of Wilton Castle, Sheriff of Herefordshire, 8th Baron Chandos; and Elizabeth Barnard...

 Anthems. Romain Rolland
Romain Rolland
Romain Rolland was a French dramatist, novelist, essayist, art historian and mystic who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915.-Biography:...

 stated that these anthem
Anthem
The term anthem means either a specific form of Anglican church music , or more generally, a song of celebration, usually acting as a symbol for a distinct group of people, as in the term "national anthem" or "sports anthem".-Etymology:The word is derived from the Greek via Old English , a word...

s were as important for his oratorio
Oratorio
An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias...

s as the cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

s were for his operas. Another work he wrote for the Duke of Chandos, the owner of Cannons, was Acis and Galatea: during Handel's lifetime it was his most performed work. Winton Dean
Winton Dean
Winton Dean is an English musicologist of the 20th century, most famous for his research concerning the life and works—in particular the operas and oratorios—of Handel, as detailed in his book Handel’s Dramatic Oratorios and Masques .Dean was born in Birkenhead...

 wrote, "the music catches breath and disturbs the memory".

In 1719 the Duke of Chandos became one of the main subscribers to Handel's new opera company, the Royal Academy of Music
Royal Academy of Music (company)
The Royal Academy of Music was a company founded in February 1719, during George Frideric Handel's residence at Cannons, by a group of aristocrats to secure themselves a constant supply of baroque opera or opera seria. It commissioned large numbers of new operas from three of the leading composers...

, but his patronage of music declined after he lost money in the South Sea bubble, which burst in 1720 in one of history's greatest financial cataclysms.
Handel himself invested in South Sea stock in 1716, when prices were low and sold before 1720.

Royal Academy of Music (1719–34)

In May 1719 Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
The Lord Chamberlain or Lord Chamberlain of the Household is one of the chief officers of the Royal Household in the United Kingdom and is to be distinguished from the Lord Great Chamberlain, one of the Great Officers of State....

 Thomas Holles, the Duke of Newcastle ordered Handel to look for new singers. Handel travelled to Dresden to attend the newly-built opera. He saw Teofane by Antonio Lotti
Antonio Lotti
Antonio Lotti was an Italian composer of classical music.Lotti was born in Venice, although his father Matteo was Kapellmeister at Hanover at the time. In 1682, Lotti began studying with Lodovico Fuga and Giovanni Legrenzi, both of whom were employed at St Mark's Basilica, Venice's principal church...

, and engaged 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
Opera seria
Opera seria is an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and "serious" style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770...

. Handel may have invited John Smith, his fellow student in Halle, and his son Johann Christoph Schmidt
John Christopher Smith
John Christopher Smith [Johann Christoph Schmidt] was an English composer who, following in his father's footsteps, became George Frederic Handel's secretary and amanuensis.-Life:...

, to become his secretary and amanuensis
Amanuensis
Amanuensis is a Latin word adopted in various languages, including English, for certain persons performing a function by hand, either writing down the words of another or performing manual labour...

. By 1723 he had moved into a Georgian
Georgian architecture
Georgian architecture is the name given in most English-speaking countries to the set of architectural styles current between 1720 and 1840. It is eponymous for the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover—George I of Great Britain, George II of Great Britain, George III of the United...

 house at 25 Brook Street, which he rented for the rest of his life. This house, where he rehearsed, copied music and sold tickets, is now the Handel House Museum
Handel House Museum
The Handel House Museum is a museum in Mayfair, London dedicated to the life and works of the German born baroque composer George Frideric Handel, who made his home in London in 1712 and eventually became a British citizen in 1727. Handel was the first occupant of 25 Brook Street, which he rented...

. During twelve months between 1724 and 1725, Handel wrote three outstanding and successful operas, Giulio Cesare
Giulio Cesare
Giulio Cesare in Egitto , commonly known simply as Giulio Cesare, is an Italian opera in three acts written for the Royal Academy of Music by George Frideric Handel in 1724...

, Tamerlano
Tamerlano
Tamerlano is an opera in three acts written for the Royal Academy of Music , with music by George Frideric Handel to an Italian text by Nicola Francesco Haym, adapted from Agostin Piovene's Tamerlano together with another libretto entitled Bajazet after Nicolas Pradon's Tamerlan, ou La Mort de...

 and Rodelinda. Handel's operas are filled with da capo aria
Da capo aria
The da capo aria is a musical form, which was prevalent in the Baroque era. It is sung by a soloist with the accompaniment of instruments, often a small orchestra. The da capo aria is very common in the musical genres of opera and oratorio...

s, such as Svegliatevi nel core
Svegliatevi nel core
Svegliatevi nel core is the famous aria taken from act 1, scene 1 of the Italian opera, "Giulio Cesare" by German-born British Baroque composer, Georg Friedrich Händel. The aria is written for the role “Sesto”, a soprano in trouser role, including during the premiere, who sing it to assure his...

. After composing Silete venti, he concentrated on opera and stopped writing cantatas. Scipio, from which the regimental slow march of the British Grenadier Guards
Grenadier Guards
The Grenadier Guards is an infantry regiment of the British Army. It is the most senior regiment of the Guards Division and, as such, is the most senior regiment of infantry. It is not, however, the most senior regiment of the Army, this position being attributed to the Life Guards...

 is derived, was performed as a stopgap, waiting for the arrival of Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni was an Italian mezzo-soprano.-Early career:She was born in Venice and brought up under the protection of the aristocratic brother composers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. Her singing teacher was another composer, Michelangelo Gasparini...

.

In 1727 Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the coronation ceremony of King George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

. One of these, Zadok the Priest
Zadok the Priest
Zadok the Priest is a coronation anthem composed by George Frideric Handel using texts from the King James Bible. It is one of the four Coronation Anthems that Handel composed for the coronation of George II of Great Britain in 1727,The other Coronation Anthems Handel composed are: The King Shall...

, has been played at every British coronation ceremony
Coronation of the British monarch
The coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony in which the monarch of the United Kingdom is formally crowned and invested with regalia...

 since. In 1728 John Gay's The Beggar's Opera
The Beggar's Opera
The Beggar's Opera is a ballad opera in three acts written in 1728 by John Gay with music arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It is one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and is the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today...

 premiered at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre
Lisle's Tennis Court
Lisle's Tennis Court was a building off Portugal Street in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London. Originally built as a real tennis court, it was used as a playhouse during two periods, 1661–1674 and 1695–1705. During the early period, the theatre was called "the Duke's Playhouse", or "the...

 and ran for 62 consecutive performances, the longest run in theatre history up to that time. After nine years Handel's contract was ended but he soon started a new company.

The Queen's Theatre at the Haymarket (now Her Majesty's Theatre
Her Majesty's Theatre
Her Majesty's Theatre is a West End theatre, in Haymarket, City of Westminster, London. The present building was designed by Charles J. Phipps and was constructed in 1897 for actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who established the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the theatre...

), established in 1705 by architect and playwright John Vanbrugh
John Vanbrugh
Sir John Vanbrugh  – 26 March 1726) was an English architect and dramatist, perhaps best known as the designer of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. He wrote two argumentative and outspoken Restoration comedies, The Relapse and The Provoked Wife , which have become enduring stage favourites...

, quickly became an opera house
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

. Between 1711 and 1739, more than 25 of Handel's operas premièred there. In 1729 Handel became joint manager of the Theatre with John James Heidegger
John James Heidegger
John James Heidegger was a Swiss count and leading impresario of masquerades in the early part of the 18th century....

.

Handel travelled to Italy to engage seven new singers. He composed seven more operas, but the public came to hear the singers rather than the music. After two commercially successful English oratorios Esther and Deborah
Deborah (Handel)
Deborah is an oratorio by George Frideric Handel. It was one of Handel's very early oratorios and was based on a libretto by Samuel Humphreys. It received its premiere performance at the King's Theatre in London on 17 March 1733....

, he was able to invest again in the South Sea Company. Handel reworked his Acis and Galatea which then became his most successful work ever. Handel failed to compete with the Opera of the Nobility
Opera of the Nobility
The Opera of the Nobility was an opera company set up and funded in 1733 by a group of nobles opposed to George II of England, in order to rival the Second Royal Academy of Music company under Handel .Nicola Porpora was invited to be its musical director and Owen Swiny considered as its talent scout...

, who engaged musicians such as Johann Adolf Hasse, Nicolo Porpora and the famous castrato Farinelli
Farinelli
Farinelli , was the stage name of Carlo Maria Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera.- Early years :...

. The strong support by Frederick, Prince of Wales
Frederick, Prince of Wales
Frederick, Prince of Wales was a member of the House of Hanover and therefore of the Hanoverian and later British Royal Family, the eldest son of George II and father of George III, as well as the great-grandfather of Queen Victoria...

 caused conflicts in the royal family. In March 1734 Handel directed a wedding anthem
Anthem
The term anthem means either a specific form of Anglican church music , or more generally, a song of celebration, usually acting as a symbol for a distinct group of people, as in the term "national anthem" or "sports anthem".-Etymology:The word is derived from the Greek via Old English , a word...

 This is the day which the Lord hath made, and a serenata Parnasso in Festa for Anne of Hanover
Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange
Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange was the second child and eldest daughter of King George II of Great Britain and his consort, Caroline of Ansbach. She was the spouse of William IV, Prince of Orange, the first hereditary stadtholder of the Netherlands...

.

Opera at Covent Garden (1734–41)

In 1733 the Earl of Essex
William Capell, 3rd Earl of Essex
William Capell, 3rd Earl of Essex, KG, PC was the son of the 2nd Earl of Essex.Capell was one of the founding governors of the charity, the Foundling Hospital, created in October 1739 to care for abandoned children....

 received a letter with the following sentence: "Handel became so arbitrary a prince, that the Town murmurs". The board of chief investors expected Handel to retire when his contract ended, but Handel immediately looked for another theatre. In cooperation with John Rich
John Rich (producer)
John Rich was an important director and theatre manager in 18th century London. He opened the New Theatre at Lincoln's Inn Fields and then the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden and began putting on ever more lavish productions...

 he started his third company at Covent Garden Theatre. Rich was renowned for his spectacular productions. He suggested Handel use his small chorus and introduce the dancing of Marie Sallé
Marie Sallé
Marie Sallé was a French dancer and choreographer known for her expressive, dramatic performances rather than a series of "leaps and frolics" typical of ballet of her time...

, for whom Handel composed Terpsichore
Terpsichore
In Greek mythology, Terpsichore "delight of dancing" was one of the nine Muses, ruling over dance and the dramatic chorus. She lends her name to the word "terpsichorean" which means "of or relating to dance". She is usually depicted sitting down, holding a lyre, accompanying the dancers' choirs...

. In 1735 he introduced organ concerto
Organ concerto
An organ concerto is a piece of music, an instrumental concerto for a pipe organ soloist with an orchestra. The form first evolves in the 18th century, when composers including George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach wrote organ concertos with small orchestras, and with...

s between the acts. For the first time Handel allowed Gioacchino Conti
Gioacchino Conti
Gioacchino Conti , best known as Gizziello, was an Italian soprano castrato opera singer.-Biography:Conti was born in Arpino...

, who had no time to learn his part, to substitute arias. Financially, Ariodante
Ariodante
Ariodante is an opera seria in three acts by Handel. The anonymous Italian libretto was based on a work by Antonio Salvi, which in turn was adapted from Canti 5 and 6 of Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso...

 was a failure, although he introduced ballet suites at the end of each act. Alcina
Alcina
Alcina is an opera seria by George Frideric Handel. Handel used the libretto of L'isola di Alcina, an opera that was set in 1728 in Rome by Riccardo Broschi, which he acquired the year after, during his travels in Italy...

, his last opera with a magic content, and Alexander's Feast
Alexander's Feast (Handel)
Alexander's Feast is an ode with music by George Frideric Handel set to a libretto by Newburgh Hamilton. Hamilton adapted his libretto from John Dryden's ode Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music which had been written to celebrate Saint Cecilia's Day...

 or the Power of Music based on John Dryden's Alexander's Feast
Alexander's Feast (Dryden)
Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music is an ode by John Dryden. It was written to celebrate Saint Cecilia's Day. Jeremiah Clarke set the original ode to music, however the score is now lost....

 starred Anna Maria Strada del Pò and John Beard
John Beard (tenor)
John Beard was an English tenor of the 18th century. He is best remembered for creating an extensive number of roles in the operas and oratorios of George Frideric Handel....

.

In April 1737, at age 52, Handel apparently suffered a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 which disabled the use of four fingers on his right hand, preventing him from performing. In summer the disorder seemed at times to affect his understanding. Nobody expected that Handel would ever be able to perform again. But whether the affliction was rheumatism, a stroke or a nervous breakdown, he recovered remarkably quickly . To aid his recovery, Handel had travelled to Aachen
Aachen
Aachen has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, ...

, a spa in Germany. During six weeks he took long hot baths, and ending up playing the organ for a surprised audience.

Deidamia
Deidamia (opera)
Deidamia was George Frideric Handel's last Italian opera. The Italian text was by Paolo Antonio Rolli.-Performance history:The opera was first performed on 10 January 1741 at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, London. The opera received only three performances, at a time when the public was becoming...

 his last, and only baroque opera without an accompagnato, was performed three times in 1741. Handel gave up the opera business, while he enjoyed more success with his English oratorios.

Oratorio

Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, an allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

, Handel's first oratorio was composed in Italy in 1707, followed by La Resurrezione
La Resurrezione
La resurrezione is a sacred oratorio by George Frideric Handel, set to a libretto by Carlo Sigismondo Capece . Capece was court poet to Queen Maria Casimira of Poland, who was living in exile in Rome. It was first performed on the Easter Sunday of 1708 at Rome, with the backing of the Marchese...

 in 1708 which uses material from the Bible. The circumstances of Esther and its first performance, possibly in 1718, are obscure. Another 12 years had passed when an act of piracy
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

 caused him to take up Esther once again. Three earlier performances aroused such interest that they naturally prompted the idea of introducing it to a larger public. Next came Deborah
Deborah (Handel)
Deborah is an oratorio by George Frideric Handel. It was one of Handel's very early oratorios and was based on a libretto by Samuel Humphreys. It received its premiere performance at the King's Theatre in London on 17 March 1733....

, strongly coloured by the Anthems and Athaliah
Athalia (oratorio)
Athalia is an English-language oratorio by George Frideric Handel, his third in this genre. The structural and rhetorical achievements in Athalia project a dramatic concept that may be unique in Handel's output. Commissioned in 1733 for the Publick Act in Oxford, a commencement ceremony of the...

, his first English Oratorio. In these three oratorios Handel laid foundation for the traditional use of the chorus which marks his later oratorios. Handel became sure of himself, broader in his presentation, and more diverse in his composition.

It is evident how much he learnt from Arcangelo Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli
Arcangelo Corelli was an Italian violinist and composer of Baroque music.-Biography:Corelli was born at Fusignano, in the current-day province of Ravenna, although at the time it was in the province of Ferrara. Little is known about his early life...

 about writing for instruments, and from Alessandro Scarlatti
Alessandro Scarlatti
Alessandro Scarlatti was an Italian Baroque composer especially famous for his operas and chamber cantatas. He is considered the founder of the Neapolitan school of opera. He was the father of two other composers, Domenico Scarlatti and Pietro Filippo Scarlatti.-Life:Scarlatti was born in...

 about writing for the solo voice; but there is no single composer who taught him how to write for chorus. Handel tended more and more to replace Italian soloists by English ones. The weightiest reason for this change was the dwindling financial returns from his operas. Thus a tradition was created for oratorios which was to govern their future performance. The performances were given without costumes and action; the performers appeared in a black suit.
In 1736 Handel came with Alexander's Feast
Alexander's Feast (Handel)
Alexander's Feast is an ode with music by George Frideric Handel set to a libretto by Newburgh Hamilton. Hamilton adapted his libretto from John Dryden's ode Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music which had been written to celebrate Saint Cecilia's Day...

. John Beard
John Beard (tenor)
John Beard was an English tenor of the 18th century. He is best remembered for creating an extensive number of roles in the operas and oratorios of George Frideric Handel....

 appeared for the first time as one of Handel's principal singers and became Handel's permanent tenor soloist for the rest of Handel's life. The piece was a great success and it encouraged Handel to make the transition from writing Italian operas to English choral works. In Saul
Saul (Handel)
Saul is an oratorio in three acts written by George Frideric Handel with a libretto by Charles Jennens. Taken from the 1st Book of Samuel, the story of Saul focuses on the first king of Israel’s relationship with his eventual successor, David; one which turns from admiration to envy and hatred,...

, Handel was collaborating with Charles Jennens
Charles Jennens
Charles Jennens was an English landowner and patron of the arts, who assembled the text for five of Handel's oratorios: Saul, Israel in Egypt, L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, Messiah, and Belshazzar...

 and experimenting with three trombones, a carillon and extra-large military kettledrums (from the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

), to be sure "...it will be most excessive noisy". Saul and Israel in Egypt
Israel in Egypt (oratorio)
Israel in Egypt is a biblical oratorio by the composer George Frideric Handel. Many historians believe the libretto was compiled by Handel's collaborator Charles Jennens, and it is composed entirely of selected passages from the Hebrew Bible, mainly from Exodus and the Psalms.Israel in Egypt...

 both from 1739 head the list of great, mature oratorios, in which the da capo and dal segno
Dal Segno
In music notation, Dal segno is used as a navigation marker. From Italian for "from the sign," D.S. appears in sheet music and instructs a musician to repeat a passage starting from the sign shown at right, sometimes called the "segno" in English.Two common variants:*D.S...

 aria became the exception and not the rule.
Israel in Egypt consists of little else but choruses, borrowing from the Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline
The ways of Zion do mourn / Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline
The ways of Zion do mourn / Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline, HWV 264, is an anthem composed by George Frideric Handel. The theme of the first chorus was taken by Mozart as the theme for the Requiem aeternam movement of his requiem mass.-Text:...

. In his next works Handel changed his course. In these works he laid greater stress on the effects of orchestra and soloists; the chorus retired into the background. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato is a pastoral ode by George Frideric Handel based on the poetry of John Milton.-History:Handel composed the work over the period of 19 January to 4 February 1740, and the work was premiered on 27 February 1740 at the Royal Theatre of Lincoln's Inn Fields...

 has a rather diverting character; the work is light and fresh.

During the summer of 1741, the 3rd Duke of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire, KG, PC was a British nobleman and Whig politician, the son of William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire and Hon. Rachel Russell....

 invited Handel to Dublin to give concerts for the benefit of local hospitals. His Messiah
Messiah (Handel)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later...

 was first performed at the New Music Hall in Fishamble Street
Fishamble Street
Fishamble Street is a street in Dublin, Ireland within the old city walls.The street joins Wood Quay at the Fish Slip near Fyan's Castle. It is mentioned in the 14th century as Vicus Piscariorum and as Fish Street. In 1577, Stanihurst named it as St John's Street...

, on 13 April 1742, with 26 boys and five men from the combined choirs of St Patrick's
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
Saint Patrick's Cathedral , or more formally, the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Patrick is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland in Dublin, Ireland which was founded in 1191. The Church has designated it as The National Cathedral of Ireland...

 and Christ Church
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
Christ Church Cathedral is the cathedral of the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough and the cathedral of the Ecclesiastical province of the United Provinces of Dublin and Cashel in the Church of Ireland...

 cathedrals participating. Handel secured a balance between soloists and chorus which he never surpassed.

The use of English soloists reached its height at the first performance of Samson
Samson (oratorio)
Samson is a three-act oratorio by George Frideric Handel, considered one of his finest dramatic works. It is usually performed as an oratorio in concert form, but on occasions has also been staged as an opera...

. The work is highly theatrical. The role of the chorus became increasingly import in his later oratorios.

Jephtha
Jephtha (oratorio)
Jephtha is an oratorio by Handel with a libretto by the Rev. Thomas Morell, based on the story of Jephtha in Judges and Jephthas sive votum - "Jeptha or the Vow" by George Buchanan. Whilst writing Jephtha, Handel was increasingly troubled by his gradual loss of sight, and this proved to be his...

 was first performed on 26 February 1752; even though it was his last oratorio, it was no less a masterpiece than his earlier works.

Later years

In 1749 Handel composed Music for the Royal Fireworks; 12,000 people attended the first performance. In 1750 he arranged a performance of Messiah to benefit the Foundling Hospital
Foundling Hospital
The Foundling Hospital in London, England was founded in 1741 by the philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram. It was a children's home established for the "education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children." The word "hospital" was used in a more general sense than it is today, simply...

. 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
Foundling Museum
The Foundling Museum in London tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, Britain's first home for abandoned children. The museum houses the nationally important Foundling Hospital Art Collection as well as the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, the world's greatest privately amassed collection of...

, which also holds the Gerald Coke Handel Collection. In addition to the Foundling Hospital, Handel also gave to a charity that assisted impoverished musicians and their families.

In August 1750, on a journey back from Germany to London, Handel was seriously injured in a carriage accident between The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

 and Haarlem
Haarlem
Haarlem is a municipality and a city in the Netherlands. It is the capital of the province of North Holland, the northern half of Holland, which at one time was the most powerful of the seven provinces of the Dutch Republic...

 in the Netherlands. In 1751 one eye started to fail. The cause was a cataract
Cataract
A cataract is a clouding that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope, varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light...

 which was operated on by the great charlatan Chevalier Taylor
John Taylor (oculist)
"Chevalier" John Taylor was the first in a long line of British eye surgeons. While there is some evidence that he showed promise as an eye surgeon early in his career, it became evident that his major talent was that of self-promotion....

. This led to uveitis
Uveitis
Uveitis specifically refers to inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, termed the "uvea" but in common usage may refer to any inflammatory process involving the interior of the eye....

 and subsequent loss of vision. He died eight years later in 1759 at home in Brook Street, at age 74. The last performance he attended performed Messiah. Handel was buried in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

. More than three thousand mourners attended his funeral, which was given full state honours.

Handel never married, and kept his personal life private. His initial will bequeathed the bulk of his estate to his niece Johanna, however four codicils distributed much of his estate to other relations, servants, friends and charities.

Handel owned an art collection
George Frideric Handel's art collection
George Frideric Handel is reported to have had a great love for painting, and until his eyesight failed him, he enjoyed viewing collections of pictures that were for sale...

 that was auctioned posthumously in 1760. The auction catalogue listed approximately seventy paintings and ten prints (other paintings were bequeathed).

Works

Main articles: List of compositions by George Frideric Handel and List of operas by Handel.

Handel's compositions include 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

s, trio
Trio (music)
Trio is generally used in any of the following ways:* A group of three musicians playing the same or different musical instrument.* The performance of a piece of music by three people.* The contrasting section of a piece in ternary form...

s and duets, numerous aria
Aria
An aria in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment...

s, chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

, a large number of ecumenical pieces, ode
Ode
Ode is a type of lyrical verse. A classic ode is structured in three major parts: the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode. Different forms such as the homostrophic ode and the irregular ode also exist...

s and serenatas, and 16 organ concerti. His most famous work, the oratorio Messiah
Messiah (Handel)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later...

 with its "Hallelujah" chorus, is among the most popular works in choral music and has become the centrepiece of the Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 season. Among the works with opus numbers published and popularised in his lifetime are the Organ Concertos Op.4
Handel organ concertos Op.4
The Handel organ concertos Op 4, HWV 289–294, refer to the six organ concertos for chamber organ and orchestra composed by George Frideric Handel in London between 1735 and 1736 and published in 1738 by the printing company of John Walsh...

 and Op.7
Handel organ concertos Op.7
The Handel organ concertos Op 7, HWV 306–311, refer to the six organ concertos for organ and orchestra composed by George Frideric Handel in London between 1740 and 1751, published posthumously in 1761 by the printing company of John Walsh...

, together with the Opus 3 and Opus 6 concerti grossi
Handel concerti grossi Op.6
The Handel concerti grossi Op.6 or Twelve Grand Concertos, HWV 319-330, are 12 concerti grossi by George Frideric Handel for a concertino trio of two violins and violoncello and a ripieno four-part string orchestra with harpsichord continuo. First published by subscription in London by John Walsh...

; the latter incorporate an earlier organ concerto The Cuckoo and the Nightingale in which birdsong is imitated in the upper registers of the organ. Also notable are his sixteen keyboard suites, especially The Harmonious Blacksmith
The Harmonious Blacksmith
The Harmonious Blacksmith is the popular name of the final movement, Air and variations, of George Frideric Handel's Suite No. 5 in E major, HWV 430, for harpsichord...

.

Handel introduced previously uncommon musical instruments in his works: the viola d'amore
Viola d'amore
The viola d'amore is a 7- or 6-stringed musical instrument with sympathetic strings used chiefly in the baroque period. It is played under the chin in the same manner as the violin.- Structure and sound :...

 and violetta marina (Orlando), the lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

 (Ode for St. Cecilia's Day), three trombone
Trombone
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate...

s (Saul), clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

s or small high cornett
Cornett
The cornett, cornetto or zink is an early wind instrument, dating from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. It was used in what are now called alta capellas or wind ensembles. It is not to be confused with the trumpet-like instrument cornet.-Construction:There are three basic types of...

s (Tamerlano), theorbo
Theorbo
A theorbo is a plucked string instrument. As a name, theorbo signifies a number of long-necked lutes with second pegboxes, such as the liuto attiorbato, the French théorbe des pièces, the English theorbo, the archlute, the German baroque lute, the angélique or angelica. The etymology of the name...

, horn (Water Music
Water Music (Handel)
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often considered three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717 after King George I had requested a concert on the River Thames...

), lyrichord, double bassoon, viola da gamba, bell chimes, positive organ
Positive organ
A positive organ is a small, usually one-manual, pipe organ that is built to be more or less mobile. It was common in sacred and secular music between the 10th and the 18th centuries, in chapels and small churches, as a chamber organ and for the basso continuo in ensemble works...

, and harp
Harp
The harp is a multi-stringed instrument which has the plane of its strings positioned perpendicularly to the soundboard. Organologically, it is in the general category of chordophones and has its own sub category . All harps have a neck, resonator and strings...

 (Giulio Cesare, Alexander's Feast).

Handel's works have been catalogued in the Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis
Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis
The Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis is the Catalogue of Handel's Works. It was published in three volumes by Bernd Baselt between 1978 and 1986, and lists every piece of music known to have been written by George Frideric Handel...

 and are commonly referred to by an HWV number. For example, Messiah is catalogued as HWV 56.

Legacy

After his death, Handel's Italian operas fell into obscurity, except for selections such as the aria from Serse
Serse
Serse is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel. It was first performed in London on 15 April 1738. The Italian libretto was adapted by an unknown hand from that by Silvio Stampiglia for an earlier opera of the same name by Giovanni Bononcini in 1694...

, "Ombra mai fù
Ombra mai fu
"Ombra mai fu" is the opening aria from the 1738 opera Serse by George Frideric Handel.-Context:The opera was a commercial failure, lasting only five performances in London after its premiere. In the 19th century, however, the aria was rediscovered and became one of Handel's best-known pieces...

". The oratorios continued to be performed but not long after Handel's death they were thought to need some modernisation, and Mozart orchestrated a German version of Messiah and other works. Throughout the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, particularly in the Anglophone
English-speaking world
The English-speaking world consists of those countries or regions that use the English language to one degree or another. For more information, please see:Lists:* List of countries by English-speaking population...

 countries, his reputation rested primarily on his English oratorios, which were customarily performed by enormous choruses of amateur singers on solemn occasions.

Since the Early Music Revival
Early Music Revival
See Early music and Historically informed performance for a more detailed explanation of this topic.The general discussion of how to perform music from ancient or earlier times did not become an important subject of interest until the 19th century, when Europeans began looking to ancient culture...

 many of the forty-two operas he wrote have been performed in opera houses and concert halls.

Handel's music was studied by composers such as Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

, Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, and Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

.

Recent decades have revived his secular cantatas and what one might call 'secular oratorios' or 'concert operas'. Of the former, Ode for St. Cecilia's Day
Ode for St. Cecilia's Day
Ode for St. Cecilia's Day is a cantata composed by George Frideric Handel in 1739, his second setting of the poem by the English poet John Dryden. The title of the oratorio refers to Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. The main theme of the text is the Pythagorean theory of harmonia...

 (1739) (set to texts by John Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

) and Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne is a secular cantata composed by George Frideric Handel to a libretto by Ambrose Philips. It was probably composed during January 1713 for a performance on 6 February 1713...

 (1713) are noteworthy. For his secular oratorios, Handel turned to classical mythology for subjects, producing such works as Acis and Galatea (1719), Hercules
Hercules (music drama)
Hercules is a Musical Drama in three acts by George Frideric Handel, composed in July and August 1744. The English language libretto was by the Reverend Thomas Broughton, based on Sophocles's Women of Trachis and the ninth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses.-Performance history:Hercules was first given...

 (1745) and Semele
Semele (oratorio)
Semele is a 1743 opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel. It is based on the classical myth of Semele, mother of Dionysus.-Background:...

 (1744). These works have a close kinship with the sacred oratorios, particularly in the vocal writing for the English-language texts. They also share the lyrical and dramatic qualities of Handel's Italian operas. As such, they are sometimes performed onstage by small chamber ensembles. With the rediscovery of his theatrical works, Handel, in addition to his renown as instrumentalist, orchestral writer, and melodist, is now perceived as being one of opera's great musical dramatists.

Handel's works were edited by Samuel Arnold
Samuel Arnold (composer)
Samuel Arnold was an English composer and organist.Arnold was born in London , and began writing music for the theatre in about 1764. A few years later he became director of music at the Marylebone Gardens, for which much of his popular music was written...

 (40 vols., London, 1787–1797), and by Friedrich Chrysander
Friedrich Chrysander
Karl Franz Friedrich Chrysander was a German music historian and critic, whose edition of the works of George Frideric Handel and authoritative writings on many other composers established him as a pioneer of 19th-century musicology.Born at Lübtheen, in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Chrysander was the son...

, for the German Händel-Gesellschaft
Händel-Gesellschaft
Between 1858 and 1902, the Händel-Gesellschaft, or "German Handel Society," produced a collected 105-volume edition of the works of Georg Frideric Handel. Even though the collection was initiated by the society, many of the volumes were published by Friedrich Chrysander working alone...

 (105 vols., Leipzig, 1858–1902).

Handel adopted the spelling "George Frideric Handel" on his naturalisation as a British subject, and this spelling is generally used in English-speaking countries. The original form of his name, Georg Friedrich Händel, is generally used in Germany and elsewhere, but he is known as "Haendel" in France. Another composer with a similar name, Handl, was a Slovene and is more commonly known as Jacobus Gallus
Jacobus Gallus
Jacobus Gallus Carniolus was a late Renaissance composer of Slovenian ethnicity...

.

Musician's musician

Handel has generally been accorded high esteem by fellow composers, both in his own time and since. Bach attempted, unsuccessfully, to meet with Handel while he was visiting Halle. Mozart is reputed to have said of him, "Handel understands affect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt." To Beethoven he was "the master of us all... the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb". Beethoven emphasised above all the simplicity and popular appeal of Handel's music when he said, "Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means".

Homages

After Handel's death, many composers wrote works based on or inspired by his music. The first movement from Louis Spohr
Louis Spohr
Louis Spohr was a German composer, violinist and conductor. Born Ludewig Spohr, he is usually known by the French form of his name. Described by Dorothy Mayer as "The Forgotten Master", Spohr was once as famous as Beethoven. As a violinist, his virtuoso playing was admired by Queen Victoria...

's Symphony No. 6, Op. 116, "The Age of Bach and Handel", resembles two melodies from Handel's Messiah. In 1797 Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 published the 12 Variations in G major on ‘See the conqu’ring hero comes’ from Judas Maccabaeus by Handel, for cello and piano. Guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani
Mauro Giuliani
Mauro Giuseppe Sergio Pantaleo Giuliani was an Italian guitarist, cellist and composer, and is considered by many to be one of the leading guitar virtuosi of the early 19th century.- Biography :...

 composed his Variations on a Theme by Handel, Op. 107 for guitar, based on Handel's Suite No. 5 in E major, HWV 430, for harpsichord. In 1861, using a theme from the second of Handel's harpsichord suites, Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

 wrote the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel
Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel
The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, is a work for solo piano written by Johannes Brahms in 1861. It consists of a set of twenty-five variations and a concluding fugue, all based on a theme from George Frideric Handel's Harpsichord Suite No...

, Op. 24, one of his most successful works (praised by Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

). Several works by the French composer Félix-Alexandre Guilmant use Handel's themes, for example his March on a Theme by Handel uses a theme from Messiah. French composer and flautist Philippe Gaubert
Philippe Gaubert
Philippe Gaubert was a French musician who was a distinguished performer on the flute, a respected conductor, and a composer, primarily for the flute....

 wrote his Petite marche for flute and piano based on the fourth movement of Handel's Trio Sonata, Op. 5, No. 2, HWV 397. Argentine composer Luis Gianneo composed his Variations on a Theme by Handel for piano. In 1911, Australian-born composer and pianist Percy Grainger
Percy Grainger
George Percy Aldridge Grainger , known as Percy Grainger, was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist. In the course of a long and innovative career he played a prominent role in the revival of interest in British folk music in the early years of the 20th century. He also made many...

 based one of his most famous works on the final movement of Handel's Suite No. 5 in E major (just like Giuliani). He first wrote some variations on the theme, which he titled Variations on Handel's ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’ . Then he used the first sixteen bars of his set of variations to create Handel in the Strand, one of his most beloved pieces, of which he made several versions (for example, the piano solo version from 1930). Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

's Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra in B flat major (1933) was composed after Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op. 6/7.

Veneration

Handel is honored together with Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

 and Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell – 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music...

 with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA)
Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church in the United States of America)
The veneration of saints in the Episcopal Church is a continuation of an ancient tradition from the early Church which honors important people of the Christian faith. The usage of the term "saint" is similar to Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Those in the Anglo-Catholic tradition may...

 on 28 July.

He is commemorated as a musician in the Calendar of Saints
Calendar of Saints (Lutheran)
The Lutheran Calendar of Saints is a listing which details the primary annual festivals and events that are celebrated liturgically by some Lutheran Churches in the United States. The calendars of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod are from the...

 of the Lutheran Church on 28 July, with Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

 and Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz
Heinrich Schütz was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and often considered to be one of the most important composers of the 17th century along with Claudio Monteverdi...

.

Editions

The first complete edition of Handel's works, the Handel Gesellschaft
Händel-Gesellschaft
Between 1858 and 1902, the Händel-Gesellschaft, or "German Handel Society," produced a collected 105-volume edition of the works of Georg Frideric Handel. Even though the collection was initiated by the society, many of the volumes were published by Friedrich Chrysander working alone...

 edition was published in the mid 19th century edited by Friedrich Chrysander
Friedrich Chrysander
Karl Franz Friedrich Chrysander was a German music historian and critic, whose edition of the works of George Frideric Handel and authoritative writings on many other composers established him as a pioneer of 19th-century musicology.Born at Lübtheen, in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Chrysander was the son...

 often working alone in his home. The edition is generally very good. For modern performance, the realization of the basso continuo reflects 19th century practice. Vocal scores drawn from the edition were published by Novello in London, but some scores, such as the vocal score to Samson, are incomplete.

The still-incomplete Hallische Händel-Ausgabe
Hallische Händel-Ausgabe
The Hallische Händel-Ausgabe is a multi-volume collection of the works of George Frideric Handel. It was first published in the 1950s: initially as an adjunct to the HG edition, but by 1958 as a collected edition in its own right...

 started to appear in 1956 (named for Halle in Saxony-Anhalt
Saxony-Anhalt
Saxony-Anhalt is a landlocked state of Germany. Its capital is Magdeburg and it is surrounded by the German states of Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia.Saxony-Anhalt covers an area of...

 Eastern Germany, not the Netherlands). It did not start as a critical edition, but after heavy criticism of the first volumes, which were performing editions without a critical apparatus (for example, the opera Serse was published with the title character recast as a tenor reflecting pre-war German practice), it repositioned itself as a critical edition. Influenced in part by cold-war realities, editorial work was inconsistent: misprints are found in abundance and editors failed to consult important sources. In 1985 a committee was formed to establish better standards for the edition, and volumes issued since that time are generally very good.

See also

  • Handel Commemoration
    Handel Commemoration
    The Handel festival or ‘Commemoration’ took place in Westminster Abbey in 1784, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of George Frideric Handel in 1759....

  • Handel Reference Database
    Handel Reference Database
    Handel Reference Database is the largest documentary collection on George Frideric Handel and his times. It was launched in January 2008 on the server of the Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities at Stanford University...

  • Letters and writings of George Frideric Handel
  • en.wikisource.org/wiki/Handel/His Life of George Frideric Handel
  • List of compositions by George Frideric Handel
  • List of operas by Handel
  • Publications by Friedrich Chrysander
    Publications by Friedrich Chrysander
    Karl Franz Friedrich Chrysander was a German music historian and critic, whose edition of the works of George Frideric Handel and authoritative writings on many other composers established him as a pioneer of 19th-century musicology....

  • Valentine Snow
    Valentine Snow
    Valentine Snow was the trumpeter for George Frideric Handel. He succeeded John Shore as the primary trumpeter of England during the mid-to-late 18th century. Many of the trumpet parts in the music of Handel were written specifically for him....

  • Will of George Frideric Handel

External links


Scores and recordings

: includes Complete Works Edition (Ausgabe der Deutschen Händelgesellschaft)
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