George Frideric Handel

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  2. March 25, 2013 8:15 pm

George Frideric Handel

Although George Frideric Handel was born just one month earlier than his contemporary German countryman, Johann Sebastian Bach, he couldn’t have had a more different career.

Bach came from a musical family; Handel did not. Bach remained within his native Germany; Handel spent most of his life working in England. Bach worked primarily within the church; Handel gained fame as an operatic composer.

Following early operatic work in Germany, Handel traveled to England where he was employed by several royal courts. His operas were hugely popular and Handel had as many as three opera companies at one time. He wrote over 40 operas, most with Italian libretto, and composed many orchestral and wind ensemble pieces, with two of the most popular being “Water Music” and “Music for the Royal Fireworks.” The latter piece is scored for wind band and commemorated the end of a war. Handel also wrote original music for royal coronations.

Handel did compose many sacred works, though, with the most famous being “The Messiah” with its rousing “Hallelujah Chorus.” This piece, written in English, is universally known and is widely played at Christmastime church services. With the success of “The Messiah,” Handel abandoned the Italian opera altogether.

A virtuoso organist, Handel produced many organ concerti, as well as a significant number of chamber music pieces. He was a prolific composer of all genres of music of his day.

Unlike Bach’s compositions, Handel’s music did not disappear into oblivion after he died. Beethoven, Brahms and composers onward to this day have been influenced by Handel and wrote pieces directly attributable to him, including variations on his themes. In addition, Handel died a wealthy and respected man, escaping the pauper state of so many musicians. Ill health and near blindness plagued the later years of his life. Handel was buried in Westminster Abbey with full state honors.


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