George Frideric Handel: Wikis


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George Frideric Handel, 1733, by Balthasar Denner
George Frideric Handel Signature.svg

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


Early years

Handel's baptismal registration (Marienbibliothek Halle)

Handel was born in Halle (which was then in the Duchy of Magdeburg, a province of Brandenburg-Prussia) to Georg and Dorothea (née Taust) Händel in 1685,[2]:[1]. His father, Georg Händel, 63 when his son was born, was an eminent barber-surgeon who also served as surgeon to the court of Saxe-Weissenfels and the Margraviate of Brandenburg.[3] According to John Mainwaring, his first biographer, "Handel had discovered such a strong propensity to Music, that his father who always intended him for the study of the Civil Law, had reason to be alarmed. He strictly forbade him to meddle with any musical instrument but Handel found means to get a little clavichord privately convey'd to a room at the top of the house. To this room he constantly stole when the family was asleep".[4] At an early age Handel became a skillful performer on the harpsichord and pipe organ.[5]:[3–4] One day Handel and his father went on a trip to Weissenfels to visit either his son (Handel's half-brother) Carl, or grandson (Handel's nephew) Georg Christian [6] who was serving as a valet to Duke Johann Adolf I.[7] According to legend, the young Handel attracted the attention of the Duke with his playing on the churchorgan. At his urging, Handel's father permitted him to take lessons in musical composition and keyboard technique from Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, the organist of the Lutheran Marienkirche. From then on Handel learned about harmony and contemporary styles, analysed sheet music scores, learned to work fugue subjects and copy music. Sometimes he would take his teacher's place as organist for services.[8]:[17] In 1698 Handel played for Frederick I of Prussia and met Giovanni Bononcini in Berlin; in 1701 Georg Philipp Telemann went to Halle to listen to the promising young man.

From Halle to Italy

The Hamburg Opera am Gänsemarkt in 1726

In 1702, following his father's wishes, Handel started studying law at the University of Halle;[8]:[17–18] and also succeeded in getting an appointment as the organist at the local protestant cathedral. After a year Handel seems to have been very unsatisfied and in 1703, he moved to Hamburg, accepting a position as violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the opera house.[9]:[18] There he met Johann Mattheson, Christoph Graupner and Reinhard Keiser. His first two operas, Almira and Nero, were produced in 1705.[9]:[19] He produced two other operas, Daphne and Florindo, in 1708. It is unclear if Handel directed these performances himself in the Oper am Gänsemarkt.

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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.[10] Ferdinando, who had succeeded in making Florence the musical capital of Italy, attracting the leading talents of his day, had a keen interest in opera. There Handel met the librettist Antonio Salvi, with whom he would collaborate. According to rumours at the time, he also had a love affair with Vittoria Tarquini, a singer. Handel left for Rome and, as opera was (temporarily) banned in the Papal States, composed sacred music for the Roman clergy; the famous Dixit Dominus (1707) is from this era.:[24, 26] He also composed many cantatas in pastoral style for musical gatherings in the palace of Cardinals Pietro Ottoboni, Benedetto Pamphili and Carlo Colonna. Two oratorios, La Resurrezione and Il Trionfo del Tempo, were produced in a private setting for Ruspoli and Ottoboni in 1709 and 1710, respectively. Rodrigo, his first immature, but all-Italian opera, was produced in the Cocomero theatre in Florence in 1707.[9]:[29–30] Agrippina was first produced in 1709 at Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, the prettiest theatre at Venice, owned by the Grimani's. The opera, with a libretto by cardinal Vincenzo Grimani, ran for an unprecedented 27 performances. It showed remarkable maturity and established Handel's reputation as a composer of opera. The audience, thunderstruck with the grandeur and sublimity of his style,[11] applauded for Il caro Sassone.

The move to London

In 1710, Handel became Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover, who would become King George I of Great Britain in 1714.[9]:[38] He visited Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici and her husband in Düsseldorf on his way to London in 1710. With his opera Rinaldo, based on La Gerusalemme Liberata, Handel enjoyed great success, "but it is difficult to see why he lifted from old Italian works unless he was in a hurry".[12] This work contains one of Handel's favourite arias, Cara sposa, amante cara. In 1712, Handel decided to settle permanently in England. He received a yearly income of £200 from Queen Anne after composing for her the Utrecht te Deum performed in 1713.[13] [14]

One of his most important patrons was the young and wealthy Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, who showed an early love of his music.[15] For him he wrote Amadigi di Gaula, an unusual opera, featuring Nicolo Grimaldi and no voices lower than alto. In July of 1717 Handel's Water Music was performed more than three times on the Thames for the King and his guests, such as Anne Vaughan, the Duchess of Bolton, Countess Godolphin, Countess of Darlington and the Earl of Orkney. The barges, heading for Chelsea or Lambeth and leaving the party after midnight, used the tides of the river. The composition was successful in reconciling the king and Handel.[9]:[77]


Cannons (1717–18)

Handel spent the most carefree time of his life as house composer at Cannons in Middlesex and laid the cornerstone for his future choral compositions in the twelve Chandos Anthems.[16] Romain Rolland stated that these anthems were as important for his oratorios as the cantatas were for his operas. Rolland also highly estimated Acis and Galatea, like Winton Dean, who wrote that "the music catches breath and disturbs the memory".[17] During Handel's lifetime it was his most performed work.

Handel was a canny investor: he put money into South Sea stock in 1716 when prices were low [18] and had sold up by 1720 when the South Sea credit bubble burst in one of the greatest financial cataclysms in fiscal history.[19]

Handel House at 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London

Royal Academy of Music (1719–34)

In May 1719 Handel was ordered by Lord Chamberlain Thomas Holles, the Duke of Newcastle to look for new singers.[20] Handel travelled to Dresden to attend the newly built opera. He saw Teofane by Antonio Lotti, and engaged the cast on account of the Royal Academy of Music. Handel may have invited John Smith, his fellow student in Halle, and his son Johann Christoph Schmidt, to become his secretary and amanuensis.[21] In or even before 1723, he moved into a Georgian house at 25 Brook Street, which he rented for the rest of his life.[9]:[387] This house, where he rehearsed, copied music and sold tickets, is now the Handel House Museum.[22] In 1724 and 1725 Handel wrote several outstanding and successful operas, Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano and Rodelinda, with many of the da capo arias that made him famous, such as Svegliatevi nel core in a typical mood. After composing Silete venti, he concentrated on opera and stopped writing cantatas. Scipio, from which we have the regimental slow march of the British Grenadier Guards [2]:[194] was performed as a stopgap, waiting for the arrival of Faustina Bordoni.

In 1727 Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the coronation ceremony of King George II. One of these, Zadok the Priest, has been played at every British coronation ceremony since. In 1728 John Gay's The Beggar's Opera premiered at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre and ran for 62 consecutive performances, the longest run in theatre history up to that time. After nine years Handel's contract was ended by the directors but he soon started a new company.

In 1729 Handel became joint manager of the King's Theatre with John James Heidegger. Handel travelled to Italy to engage seven new singers. He composed seven more operas, but the public did not come to listen to his music but to hear the singers.[23] After two English oratorios Esther and Deborah, both commercially successful, he was able to invest again in the South Sea Company. Handel reworked his Acis and Galathea which then became his most succesfull work ever. In the long run Handel failed to compete with the Opera of the Nobility, engaging musicians such as Johann Adolf Hasse, Nicolo Porpora and the famous castrato Farinelli. The strong support by Frederick, Prince of Wales caused conflicts in the royal family. In March 1734 Handel directed a wedding anthem This is the day which the Lord hath made, and a serenata Parnasso in Festa for Anne of Hanover.[5]:[33]

Opera at Covent Garden (1734–41)

Portrait of George Frederick Handel engraved by Charles Turner, 1821

In 1733 the Earl of Essex 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 he started his third company at Covent Garden Theatre. Rich was renowed for his spectacular productions: he suggested Handel use his small chorus and introduce the dancing of Marie Sallé, for whom Handel composed Terpsichore. In 1735 he introduced organ concertos between the acts. For the first time Handel allowed Gioacchino Conti, who had no time to learn his part, to substitute arias.[24] Financially, Ariodante was a failure, although he introduced ballet suites at the end of each act.[25] Alcina, his last opera with a magic content, and Alexander’s Feast or the Power of Music based on John Dryden's Alexander's Feast starred Anna Maria Strada del Pò and John Beard (tenor).

In April 1737, at age 52, Handel suffered a stroke which left his right arm temporarily paralysed, preventing him from performing.[9]:[395] He also complained of difficulties in focussing his eyesight.[citation needed] 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.[26] To aid his recovery, Handel had travelled to Aachen, a spa in Germany. During six weeks he took long hot baths, and ending up playing the organ for a surprised audience.[27]

Deidamia his last, and only baroque opera without an accompagnato, was performed three times. Having lost a fortune in operatic management,[citation needed] Handel gave up the business in 1741. In the meantime Handel enjoyed more and more success with his English oratorios, and John Walsh published six organ concertos and Twelve Grand Concertos.

Later years

Queen's Theatre on Haymarket by William Capon

Following his recovery Handel focused on composing oratorios instead of opera. His Messiah was first performed at the New Music Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin, on 13 April 1742, with 26 boys and five men from the combined choirs of St Patrick's and Christ Church cathedrals participating.[28]:[48]

In 1749 he composed Music for the Royal Fireworks; 12,000 people attended the performance.[9]:[297–98]

In 1750 Handel arranged a performance of Messiah to benefit the Foundling Hospital. The performance was considered a great success and was followed by annual concerts that continued throughout his life. In recognition of his patronage, Handel was made a governor of the Hospital the day after his initial concert. He bequeathed a copy of Messiah to the institution upon his death.[28]:[56] His involvement with the Foundling Hospital is today commemorated with a permanent exhibition in London's Foundling Museum, which also holds the Gerald Coke Handel Collection. In addition to the Foundling Hospital, Handel also gave to a charity that helped to assist impoverished musicians and their families. Also, during the summer of 1741, the Duke of Devonshire invited Handel to Dublin to give concerts for the benefit of local hospitals.[5]:[40, 41]

Portrait of George Friderick Handel by William Hogarth

In August 1750, on a journey back from Germany to London, Handel was seriously injured in a carriage accident between The Hague and Haarlem in the Netherlands.[5]:[63] In 1751 his eyesight started to fail in one eye. The cause was a cataract which was operated on by the great charlatan Chevalier Taylor. This led to uveitis and subsequent loss of vision. Jephtha was first performed on 26 February 1752; even though it was his last oratorio, it was no less a masterpiece than his earlier works.[9]:[354–55] He died some eight years later in 1759 in London, at the age of 74, with his last attended performance being his own Messiah. More than three thousand mourners attended his funeral, which was given full state honours, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.[28]:[60]

Handel never married, and kept his personal life private. He left a sizable estate at his death, worth £20,000, the bulk of which he bequeathed to a niece in Germany, with additional gifts to his other relations, servants, friends and favourite charities.


Handel's portrait on a postage stamp issued in Germany in 1935
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 cantatas, trios and duets, numerous arias, chamber music, a large number of ecumenical pieces, odes and serenatas, and 16 organ concerti. His most famous work, the oratorio Messiah with its "Hallelujah" chorus, is among the most popular works in choral music and has become a centrepiece of the Christmas season. Amongst the works with opus numbers published and popularised in his lifetime are the Organ Concertos Op.4 and Op.7, together with the Opus 3 and Opus 6 concerto grossi; 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.

Handel introduced various previously uncommon musical instruments in his works: the viola d'amore and violetta marina (Orlando), the lute (Ode for St. Cecilia's Day), three trombones (Saul), clarinets or small high cornets (Tamerlano), theorbo, horn (Water Music), lyrichord, double bassoon, viola da gamba, bell chimes, positive organ, and harp (Giulio Cesare, Alexander's Feast).[29]

Handel's works have been catalogued in the Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis and are commonly referred to by a HWV number. For example, Messiah is catalogued as HWV 56.


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After his death, Handel's Italian operas fell into obscurity, except for selections such as the aria from Serse, "Ombra mai fù". Throughout the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, particularly in the Anglophone countries, his reputation rested primarily on his English oratorios, which were customarily performed by enormous choruses of amateur singers on solemn occasions. These include Esther (1718); Athalia (1733); Saul (1739); Israel in Egypt (1739); Messiah (1742); Samson (1743); Judas Maccabaeus (1747); Solomon (1748); and Jephtha (1752). The best are based on libretti by Charles Jennens.

Since the 1960s, with the revival of interest in baroque music, original instrument playing styles, and the prevalence of countertenors who could more accurately replicate castrato roles, interest has revived in Handel's Italian operas, and many have been recorded and performed onstage. Of the fifty he wrote between 1705 and 1738, Agrippina (1709), Rinaldo (1711, 1731), Orlando (1733), Ariodante (1735), Alcina (1735) and Serse (1738, also known as Xerxes) stand out and are now performed regularly in opera houses and concert halls. Arguably the finest, however, are Giulio Cesare (1724), Tamerlano (1724) and Rodelinda (1725),.

Hand-coloured etching of the royal fireworks on the Thames, 1749

Recent decades have also seen the revival of a number of secular cantatas and what one might call 'secular oratorios' or 'concert operas'. Of the former, Ode for St. Cecilia's Day (1739) (set to texts by John Dryden) and Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (1713) are particularly noteworthy. For his secular oratorios, Handel turned to classical mythology for subjects, producing such works as Acis and Galatea (1719), Hercules (1745) and Semele (1744). In terms of musical style, particularly in the vocal writing for the English-language texts, these works have a close kinship with the sacred oratorios, but they also share something of 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.

A carved marble statue of Handel, created for the Vauxhall Gardens in 1738 by Louis-François Roubiliac, and now preserved in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Handel has generally been accorded high esteem by fellow composers, both in his own time and since.[30] Bach even attempted, unsuccessfully, to meet with Handel while he was visiting Halle.[5]:[23] Mozart is reputed to have said of him, "Handel understands effect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt."[31] and 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".[31] 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".

After Handel’s death, many composers wrote works based on or inspired by his music. The first movement from Louis Spohr’s Symphony No. 6, Op. 116, "The Age of Bach and Handel", resembles two melodies from Handel's Messiah. In 1797 Ludwig van Beethoven 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 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 wrote the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, one of his most successful works (it even received praise from Richard Wagner). Several works by the French composer Félix-Alexandre Guilmant use themes by Handel, for example his March on a Theme by Handel for organ, which uses a theme from Messiah. French composer and flautist Philippe Gaubert 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 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’s Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra in B flat major (1933) was composed after Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op. 6/7.

He is commemorated as a musician in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church on July 28, with Johann Sebastian Bach and Heinrich Schütz.

Handel's works were edited by Samuel Arnold (40 vols., London, 1787–1797), and by Friedrich Chrysander, for the German Händel-Gesellschaft (100 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.

  • Handel's Messiah, And the Glory of the Lord
    Handel's Messiah, For unto us a child is born
    Handel's Messiah, Hallelujah
    Suite I, No. 2 in F Major, HWV 427 – I. Adagio
    Performed by Ivan Ilić, courtesy of Musopen
    Suite I, No. 2 in F Major, HWV 427 – II. Allegro
    Performed by Ivan Ilic, courtesy of Musopen
    Suite I, No. 2 in F Major, HWV 427 – III. Adagio
    Performed by Ivan Ilic, courtesy of Musopen
    Suite I, No. 2 in F Major, HWV 427 – IV. Allegro
    Performed by Ivan Ilic, courtesy of Musopen
    Fantasias 8, 12 and Carillon
    Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
    Performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra with Humbert Lucarelli and Edino Biaggi on oboes
    Organ Concerto – Op. 7 No. 1 – HWV 306 – 1. Andante – 2. Andante
    Performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra with organist David Schrader
    Organ Concerto – Op. 7 No. 1 – HWV 306 – 3. Largo, e piano
    Performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra with organist David Schrader
    Flute Sonata in E minor – 1. Grave
    Performed by Al Goldstein (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
    Flute Sonata in E minor – 2. Allegro
    Performed by Al Goldstein (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
    Flute Sonata in E minor – 3. Adagio
    Performed by Al Goldstein (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
    Flute Sonata in E minor – 4. Allegro
    Performed by Al Goldstein (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
    Fitzwilliam Sonata No. 1
    The first Fitzwilliam Sonata performed by Alex Murray (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
    Fitzwilliam Sonata No. 2
    Performed by Alex Murray (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
    Fitzwilliam Sonata No. 3
    Performed by Alex Murray (flute) and Martha Goldstein (harpsichord)
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Scores and recordings

See also

Primary sources


  1. ^ British Citizen by Act of Parliament: George Frideric Handel
  2. ^ a b Otto Erich Deutsch. Handel: A Documentary Biography. London: Adams and Charles Black Limited, 1955,
  3. ^ Adams Aileen, K., Hofestadt, B., "Georg Handel (1622–97): the barber-surgeon father of George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)", Journal of Medical Biography, 2005, Aug; 13(3):142–49.
  4. ^ Handel. A Celebration of his Life and Times 1685–1759. National Portrait Gallery, p. 51.
  5. ^ a b c d e Dent, Edward Joseph. Handel. R A Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-4191-2275-4. 
  6. ^ Friedrich Chrysander states it was not his half-brother but the 10-years older (!) nephew, who had to address George Friedrich as his uncle. [1]
  7. ^ Weissenfels is 34 km south of Halle; a one-way trip on foot would have taken them about seven hours. As they went by coach they travelled faster. For more details see: The life of Handel by Victor Schoelcher [2]
  8. ^ a b Jonathan Keates.Handel, the man and his music. New York: St Martin's Press, 1985
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Donald Burrows. Handel. Oxford University Press, 1994.
  10. ^ Handel as Orpheus: voice and desire in the chamber cantatas by Ellen T. Harris [3]
  11. ^ Dean, W. & J.M. Knapp (1987) Handel's Operas 1704–1726, p. 129.
  12. ^ Dean, W. & J.M. Knapp (1987) pp. 173, 180.
  13. ^ Handel, A Celebration of his life and times, p. 88.
  14. ^ There is a tantalising suggestion by Handel's biographer, Jonathan Keates, that he may have come to London in 1710 and settled in 1712 as a spy for the eventual Hanoverian successor to Queen Anne.[4]
  15. ^ Handel. A Celebration of his Life and Times 1685–1759. National Portrait Gallery, p. 92.
  16. ^ Bukofzer, M. (1983) Music in the Baroque Era. From Monteverdi to Bach, p. 333-35
  17. ^ Dean, W. & J.M. Knapp (1987), p. 209.
  18. ^ Deutsch, O.E. (1955), p. 70-71.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Deutsch, O.E. (1955), p. 89.
  21. ^ According to Dean they could not have reached London before 1716. (Dean, W. (1995), p. 226). In 1743, Smith wrote in a letter that he had been in Handel's service for 24 years.
  22. ^ In 2000, the upper stories of 25 Brook Street were leased to the Handel House Trust, and after extensive restoration, the Handel House Museum opened to the public with an events programme of baroque music.
  23. ^
  24. ^ All the above information is from: Dean, W. (2006) “Handel’s Operas, 1726–1741”, p. 274-284.
  25. ^ Dean, W. (2006) “Handel’s Operas, 1726–1741”, p. 288.
  26. ^ Dean, W. (2006) “Handel’s Operas, 1726–1741”, p. 283.
  27. ^ For new insights on this episode, see Ilias Chrissochoidis: "Handel Recovering: Fresh Light on his Affairs in 1737", Eighteenth-Century Music 5/2 (2008): 237–44.
  28. ^ a b c Percy M Young Handel. New York: David White Company, 1966.
  29. ^ Textbook in CD Sacred Arias with Harp & Harp Duets by Rachel Ann Morgan & Edward Witsenburg.
  30. ^ BBC Press Release
  31. ^ a b Young, Percy Marshall (1975-04-01) [1947]. Handel (Master Musician series). J.M.Dent & Sons. pp. 254. ISBN 0-4600-3161-9. 


  • Abraham, Gerald (1954), Handel: a symposium, Oxford University Press 
  • Burrows, Donald. Handel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-19-816470-X
  • Burrows, Donald (1997), The Cambridge Companion to Handel, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521456134 
  • Chrissochoidis, Ilias. "Early Reception of Handel's Oratorios, 1732–1784: Narrative – Studies – Documents" (Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 2004), available through UMI.
  • Dean, Winton and John Merrill Knapp. Handel's Operas, 1704–1726 (Volume 1) Oxford: Clarendon Press. (1987; 2nd Ed. 1994 (softcover) ISBN 0-198-16441-6
  • Dean, Winton (2006) “Handel’s Operas, 1726–1741” (The Boydell Press)
  • Deutsch, Otto Erich, Handel: A Documentary Biography, 1955.
  • Frosch, W.A., The "case" of George Frideric Handel, New England Journal of Medicine, 1989; 321:765–769, Sep 14, 1989. [5]
  • Harris, Ellen T. (general editor) The librettos of Handel's operas: a collection of seventy librettos documenting Handel's operatic career New York: Garland, 1989. ISBN 0-8240-3862-2
  • Harris, Ellen T. Handel as Orpheus. Voice and Desire in the Chamber Cantatas Harvard University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-674-00617-8
  • Hogwood, Christopher. Handel. London: Thames and Hudson, 1984. ISBN 0-500-01355-1
  • Keates, Jonathan. Handel, the man and his music. London: V. Gollancz, 1985. ISBN 0-575-03573-0
  • Meynell, Hugo. The Art of Handel's Operas The Edwin Mellen Press (1986) ISBN 0-889-46425-1

External links

This article includes content derived from the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1914, which is in the public domain.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

What the English like is something that they can beat time to.

Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-02-231759-04-14) was a German-born composer who moved first to Italy and then to England. On taking British nationality he Anglicized his name to George Frideric Handel.



  • Whether I was in my body or out of my body I know not. God knows it!
    • Quoted in The Harvard Magazine (December 1862), p. 141.
    • On composing the "Hallelujah Chorus" in 1741.
  • I did think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God himself.
    • Horatio Townsend An Account of the Visit of Handel to Dublin (1852) p. 93, citing Laetitia Matilda Hawkins Anecdotes, Biographical Sketches and Memoirs vol. 1 (1822).
    • His reply on being asked what his feelings were while writing the "Hallelujah Chorus".
  • I should be sorry if I only entertained them, I wish to make them better.
    • James Beattie, letter of May 25, 1780, published in William Forbes An Account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie, LL.D. (1806) p. 331.
    • In reply to Lord Kinnoull, who had complimented him on his Messiah, "the noble entertainment which he had lately given the town". Beattie had this on the authority of Kinnoull himself.
  • You have taken far too much trouble over your opera. Here in England that is mere waste of time. What the English like is something that they can beat time to, something that hits them straight on the drum of the ear.
    • Richard Alexander Streatfeild Handel (2005) p. 195, citing Anton Schmid Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1854) p. 29
    • In conversation with Gluck.


  • It is much too good for them,they don't know what to do with it.His comment on 'borrowing' others music.


  • Er ist der Meister von uns allen!
    • This man is the master of us all.
    • Haydn, at a performance of Messiah. Quoted in John Galt George the Third, His Court and Family (1824) p. 34, and in Leopold Schmidt Joseph Haydn (1898) p. 86.
  • Händel ist der unerreichte Meister aller Meister. Gehen Sie und lernen Sie von ihm, wie gewaltige Wirkungen mit einfachen Mitteln zu erreichen ist.
    • Händel is the unattained master of all masters. Go and learn from him how to achieve vast effects with simple means.
    • Beethoven, quoted by Ignaz von Seyfried. Published in Friedrich Kerst Beethoven der Mann und der Künstler, wie in seinen Eigenen Words enthüllt no. 111 [1]; Friedrich Kerst (trans. Henry Edward Krehbiel) Beethoven, the Man and the Artist, as Revealed in his own Words (1964), p. 54.
  • Händel ist der größte Komponist, der je lebte. Ich würde decken Sie meinen Kopf auf und knien Sie auf seinem Grab.
    • Händel is the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel on his grave.
    • Beethoven, speaking to J. A. Stumpff in the autumn of 1823. Published in Friedrich Kerst Beethoven der Mann und der Künstler, wie in seinen Eigenen Words enthüllt no. 112 [2]; Friedrich Kerst (trans. Henry Edward Krehbiel) Beethoven, the Man and the Artist, as Revealed in his own Words (1964), p. 54.
  • Händel ist das Größte und fähigste davonalle Komponisten; von ihm kann ich immer noch lernen.
    • Händel is the greatest and ablest of all composers; from him I can still learn.
    • Beethoven on his deathbed, speaking to Gerhard von Breuning. Published in Friedrich Kerst Beethoven der Mann und der Künstler, wie in seinen Eigenen Words enthüllt no. 111 [3]; Friedrich Kerst (trans. Henry Edward Krehbiel) Beethoven, the Man and the Artist, as Revealed in his own Words (1964), p. 54.
  • His hallelujahs open the heavens. He utters the word "Wonderful," as if all their trumpets spoke together. And then, when he comes to earth, to make love amidst nymphs and shepherds (for the beauties of all religions found room within his breast), his strains drop milk and honey, and his love is the youthfulness of the Golden Age.
  • Handel is so great and so simple that no one but a professional musician is unable to understand him.
  • Handel paralysed music in England for generations and they have not yet quite got over him.
  • Every Englishman believes that Handel now occupies an important position in heaven. If so, le bon Dieu must feel toward him very much as Louis Treize felt toward Richelieu.

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|210px|George Frideric Handel, 1733]] George Fredrick Handel (German: Georg Friedrich Händel) (b. Halle, Germany, 23 February 1685; died London, England, 14 April 1759) was a German composer who went to live in England when he was a young man and later[1] became a naturalised Briton. Johann Sebastian Bach and Handel were born in the same year. They were the greatest composers of their time, but they never met. Handel changed his name to George Frideric Handel when he became British; he removed the dots above the "a" and changed the spelling of Georg and Friedrich. The German spelling of his name (Georg Friedrich Händel) is still used by German writers.

Although they both lived in the late Baroque period, Bach and Handel’s music developed differently. Handel wrote many operas and oratorios and by them became very famous. He took many trips, including to Italy where he learned a lot about composition. Bach never left central Germany, and most of the time he was a church musician who was not well-known by the general public.

Handel wrote over 42 operas. Later he wrote oratorios. His most famous oratorio is the Messiah . He wrote anthems, chamber music and orchestral music including the Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks.



Early years

File:Halle an der Saale
House in Halle where Handel was born

Handel was born in Halle in the northeast of Germany, in today's Saxony-Anhalt. His father was a barber and a surgeon.[2] He started playing the harpsichord and the organ when he was very young. He was given a clavichord when he was seven and he used to practice it in the attic where his father could not hear him. At the age of nine he was already composing. He had a teacher called Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau who was the organist of the big church, the Liebfrauenkirche, in Halle. He learned the organ, harpsichord and violin as well as composition, harmony.

Handel’s father did want him to study music; he wanted him to be a lawyer. So in 1703 he began to study law at the University of Halles. The next year his father died, and Handel stopped studying law. He became organist at the Protestant Cathedral in Halle. The next year he moved to Hamburg where he got a job as violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the opera-house. Here his first two operas, Almira and Nero, were produced early in 1705. Two other early operas, Daphne and Florindo, were produced at Hamburg in 1708.

Handel was becoming a good opera composer, but he wanted to learn more, so he went to Italy in 1707. He spent four years there. His opera Rodrigo was produced in Florence in 1707, and his Agrippina at Venice in 1709. Agrippina was very popular and had 26 performances. It made Handel famous. He also had three oratorios produced in Roma. He wrote scared music (church music) and other pieces in an operatic style, e.g. Dixit Dominus (1707).

Move to England

Handel in the year 1727

In 1710 Handel became Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover,[2] who would soon be King George I of Great Britain. The Elector agreed that Handel could have an immediate leave of 12 months so that he could go to London. He visited London for eight months. His opera Rinaldo was performed in 1711. It was the first time an Italian opera had been performed in England. It was an immediate success. Handel returned to Hanover in the summer of 1711 and spent a year writing chamber and orchestral music because there was no opera in Hanover. He was also trying to learn English. In 1712 the Elector allowed him to make another visit to England. In England he had patrons (rich people who gave him money). He had a yearly income of £200 from Queen Anne (while Bach earned only eighty in a year). He was having a lot of success, so he stayed in England instead of going back to his job in Hanover.

In 1712 Queen Anne died and the Elector of Hanover became King of Great Britain. Handel might have been in trouble. According to one story the King forgave Handel because he wrote some lovely music called Water Music which was performed on a boat on the Thames at a royal water party. This story about the king forgiving Handel is probably not true. George would have known that Queen Anne was about to die and he would become King of Great Britain and therefore Handels master again. In fact, the new king doubled Handel’s salary. A few years later his salary increased again when he taught music to Queen Caroline’s daughter.

In 1724 Handel moved into a newly built house in 26 Brook Street, London, which he rented until his death in 1761, 34 years later. The house is now called Handel House Museum[1] and is open to the public. It was here that Handel composed some of his most famous music such as Messiahs, Zadok the Priests, and Fireworks Music.

In 1729 Handel's opera Scipio (Scipione) was performed for the first time. The march from this work is now the regimental slow march of the British Grenadier Guards. In the next year he took on British nationality.

In 1731 Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the coronation ceremony of King George II. One of these, Zadok the Priest, has been sung at every coronation ceremony since.

Handel spent most of his time working on operas. From 1722-1726 he was director of the Royal Academy of Music.[2] This was an organisation that put on opera performances. It had nothing to do with the academy which is called the Royal Academy of Music today where young students study music. Handel also worked in the management of the King's Theatres and many of his operas were performed in the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. He sometimes travelled to Italy to find new Italian singers and persuade them to come to London.[2] London became world famous for operas. In spite of everything Handel was doing for opera he had many enemies as well as friends. There was a lot of rivalry, especially with a composer called Bononcini whose music is forgotten today. Handel gave up operatic management in 1740, after he had lost a lot of money in the business.

Later years

In April 1739, age 54, he had a stroke. It was probably this which left his right arm paralysed for a while so that he could not perform, but he made an excellent recovery after six weeks at a health spa in Aix-la-Chapelle.[2] At this time he started to write oratorios instead of operas. In 1742 his oratorio Messiah was first performed in Dublin. Surprisingly, it was not successful in London until 1750 when it was performed in aid of the Foundling Hospital Chapel. Handel performed it every year there, which brought the hospital about £600 for each performance. Handel spent most of his time in these later years composing and producing oratorios. Judas Maccabaeus was particularly popular. The singers for these oratorios were English and Italian. They were not world-famous virtuosos but singers whom Handel had trained himself.

In August, 1750, on a journey back from Germany to London, Handel was seriously injured when his carriage overturned. In 1751 he started to lose his eyesight. He died, in 1759, in London. The last concert he went to was his own Messiah. More than 3,000 mourners went to his funeral. He was buried with full state honours in Westminster Abbey. Handel never married, and kept his personal life very private. He left £20,000 which was a lot of money for those days. His niece inherited most of his money. He also left some of it to friends, servants, relations and charities. His autographs (the original copies of the music that he wrote) are now mostly in the British Museum.

His name

Handel adopted the spelling "George Frideric Handel" on his naturalization as a British subject, and this spelling is generally used in English speaking countries. The original form of his name (Georg Friedrich Händel) is usually called in Germany, but he is known as "Haendel" in France. There was another composer with a similar name, Handl, who was a Slovene and is more commonly known as Jacobus Gallus. This can be very hard for cataloguers (people trying to make a list of his music)[3]


rue:Ґеорґ Фрідріх Гендел


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