George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759)Nationality and BackgroundG.F. Handel was born on February 23, 1685 in Halle, Germany. Hewas one of the well known composer in the Baroque period. Hisfather was a Saxon barber-surgeon who discouraged Handels study Adapted from: Tafelmusik‟s, 2002of music. So Handel had to learn organ secretly (Baroque Composers and Musicians, n.d.). At the age of seven Handel gave a dazzling performance on the organ in front of Duke ofSaxon-Weissenfels. His father was encouraged to let Handel take lessons in violin, harpsichordand composition, as long as he promised to study law. He soon began composing sonatas andmotet while serving as the assistant organist at the Halle Domkirche (cathedral-church) (Lang,P.H., 1966). Though his father died in 1697, Handel, respecting his fathers wishes, completed his study oflaw. In 1703, Handel went to the north of Germany, where he would serve his musicalapprenticeship playing in the Hamburg opera orchestra. In 1704, when he was nineteen, he wasfortunate to hear one of the world‟s famous organists and composers at the time, DietrichBuxtehude in Lubeck. This experience inspired a life-long love of opera which three years latertook him to Italy. In Florence, Venice, and Rome his church compositions and instrumental musicas well as for his operas was a great accomplishment (Baroque Composers and Musicians, n.d.). Handels first opera Almira was produced in Hamburg in 1705 and later that same yearhis second opera, Nero, premiered. In 1710, Handel returned to the north of Germany to becomethe official composer to Georg Ludwig of Hanover who later became King George I of England.During his time serving as the Kapellmeister to the court of Hanover Handel made many trips toLondon where he became idolized for his Italian operas and keyboard performances. He foundLondon a much more congenial setting for his talents. Finally he remained in England for the restof his life, anglicizing the spelling of his name (originally Georg Friedrich Händel) and becominga naturalized British subject in 1726 (Tafelmusik, 2002). Around 1733, when public enthusiasm for opera began to fade, Handel turned to thecomposition of oratorios and established a long tradition of that form in England. Among hisbest-known oratorios are Samson, Israel in Egypt, Judas Maccabaeus, Solomon, and the famousChristmas oratorio, Messiah (1742). Messiah was an enormous success and so inspiring to KingGeorge II that he rose to his feet at the "Hallelujah Chorus." To this day, it is customary foraudiences to stand at this part of Messiah performances (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to ClassicalMusic, p. 160).
At this point, Handel was no longer composing for the small, aristocratic class; instead,he was composing for the large middle class i.e. composer to King George I and King George II.The last eight years of Handel was lived in darkness, for he was blind. Queen Anne of Englandgave him a lifelong pension. He died on Good Friday, 1759. England‟s respect for him wasevidence by having him buried in the Poet‟s Corner of Westminster Abbey (Baroquemusic, n.d.).List of Compositions By the time George Friedrich Handel moved to London in 1723, he had writtenextensively sacred vocal music for the church and much secular instrumental music in his nativeGermany and in Italy. Handel is the first international star in the history of music. In London hereigned as the most popular opera composer. He was known as the master of Italian opera andEnglish oratorios (Lang, P.H., 1966). The compositions by G.F. Handel are listed as follows:Type Number of Example compositionOperas 45 Agrippina Giulio Cesare in Egitto RinaldoOratarios 29 Messiah Israel in Egypt JoshuaVocal Chamber Music As on a sunshine summers day Cantatas 100 Aci, Galatea, e Polifemo Vocal Duets 21 Trionfo del tempo e della verita(e del Vocal Trios 2 disinganno) Arias and songs 6Church music 57 The King shall Rejoice Amen alleluja Alleluja amenOrchestral Works Concerti for solo 24 instruments Organ Concertos Concerti Grossi & 23 Water Music, Suite No.1 in F Major Orchestral Concerti Suite in G Major (from Daphne) Overtures, Royal Fireworks Music Symphonies, Suites 20 & DancesChamber Music French chansons Solo Sonatas 22 Sonata in e Minor, for flute and continuo Trio Sonatas 25 Aria in F Major, No. 1 of 2 arias for 2 oboes, 2 Various Settings 19 horns and bassoon
Keyboard Music Suites & Overtures 30 8 Suites de Pièces pour le Clavecin Single Movement Suite à deux clavecins in c Minor Works 153 Overture in c Minor to AmadigiClassical Music Pages. 1995. „George Frideric Handel-List of Works‟. Viewed on 21 June 2009.Available from: < http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/handel_works_davie.html>.Composition Style and Musical Characteristics Compared to the chromatic style of Bach, Handel‟s work represents a diatonic mood.There is monumentality and impression in his work (Annala, H. and Matlik, H., 2008). Most ofhis Italian opera (39) was based on ancient Greek and Roman history or mythology. His Englishoratorios were based on the Old Testament stories with titles Isreal, Egypt, Messiah, etc. Hiscomposition has more change in texture than J.S. Bach, for example shift between polyphonicand homophonic and major and minor keys (Baroque Composers and Musicians, n.d.). Handel‟s aptitude for writing beautiful melodies is unsurpassed. He is known as aninternational composer because of his blending of English, German, Italian and French styles ofmusic. He wrote only big pieces—never wrote anything that was small. Handel compositions aremainly “borrowed” from other composers as this act is the practice during the Baroque period,everyone did it. His works are frequently improvised from his own earlier works or from othercomposers. Some say his use of borrowed music was deceptive, but others say that deceptive ornot, Handel took music that would have otherwise faded into obscurity and improved it and madeit memorable. Handel did “borrowed” more than the other composers. Defending himself, heremarked, “They don‟t know what to do with those tunes, I do.” He gave added life, lustre andbeauty to melodies that previously seemed lifeless (Burrows, D., 1997).Popularity of the Composer "Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived. I would bare my head and kneel at his grave" -- L.V. Beethoven (1824) Handel was recognized in England and by many in Germany as the greatest composer ofhis day. The wide range of expression at his command is shown not only in the operas, with theirrich and varied arias, but also in the form he created, the English oratorio, where it is applied tothe fates of nations as well as individuals. He had a vivid sense of drama. But above all he had aresource and originality of invention, to be seen in the extraordinary variety of compositions inwhich melodic beauty, boldness and humor all play a part, that place him and J.S. Bach as thesupreme masters of the Baroque era in music (Classical Music Pages, 1996).
ReferencesAnnala, H. and Mätlik, H. 2008. Handbook of Guitar and Lute Composer. Finland: Mel Bay Publications.Baroque Composers and Musicians. n.d. „George Frideric Handel‟. Viewed on 21 June 2009. Available from: <http://www.baroquemusic.org/bqxhandel.html>Burrows, D. 1997. The Cambridge companion to Handel.UK: Cambridge University Press.Classical Music Pages. 1995. „George Frideric Handel-List of Works‟. Viewed on 21 June 2009. Available from: < http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/handel_works_davie.html>.Lang, P.H. 1966. George Frideric Handel. New York: WW. Norton and Company.Mackay, A. 2002. Handel: Water Music. Ontario: Tafelmusik‟s.