George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was an English composer of German descent of the 18th century. Admired by the crowd, meeting with the intellectual intelligentsia of his time, this operas and oratorios long-winded composer stood both as one of the last humanist of the Renaissance but also as an ambassador of the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. He left a varied and vast work, marked by a great spirituality.
Despite the reluctance of his father who hoped he might become a lawyer, Handel studied composition and played several instruments. He was an organist at Halle cathedral but was keen to expand his horizons. He then moved to Hamburg before travelling in Italy for four years where he met patrons and musicians in several cities and composed many religious works, developing his skill as a melody writer.
On moving to London Handel became a fully fledged composer, conductor and impresario, putting on a considerable number of operas at the King's Theatre: several mishaps and failures however caused Handel to cease this enterprise in order to concentrate on writing oratorios, a practice in which he excelled. He was extremely inspired by biblical themes and historic figures.
Handel was a diligent worker with an impetuous nature who embodied the European art of the time. Handel's inventive music, imbued with noble, majestic form and sensual harmony was influenced by various cultures (Germany, Italy, France and England). Handel is renowned for the way he elevated the oratorio and his operas, which perfectly portrayed the nuances of psychological drama. He heralded the works of Haydn and Mozart.
Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Handel
• 1703 : Violinist and harpsichordist at the Hamburg Opera
• 1706 : Travelled to Italy where he composed numerous religious works.
• 1712 : Handel moved to London, where he became the official composer of the Royal Court
• 1720 : Handel created the first Royal Academy of Music in order to stage operas with royal patronage
• 1741 : He ceased his role as an entrepreneur and impresario
• 1753 : Handel progressively lost his sight like his contemporary Johann Sebastian Bach - failed cataract surgery
Six Key Works by Handel
• 1711 : Rinaldo, opera premiered in London on the 24th of February.
• 1717 : Water Music, performed in July on the River Thames on the occasion of a water festival in London.
• 1724 : Jules Caesar in Egypt, opera premiered in London on Feb 20th
• 1738 : 12 Concertos for Organ
• 1742 : Messie, oratorio created in Dublin on April the 13th.
• 1749 : Music for the Royal Fireworks for orchestra, premiered in London on April 27th.