- George Frideric Handel - A Man of His Time [Biography]
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George Frideric Handel

"Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know not. God knows."
- Referring to the Messiah

Handel was born 23 February, 1685 in Halle, Germany. Handel began his musical studies in 1694 with organist-composer Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. In 1705, Handel travelled to Italy where he met Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. In 1710 he visited England for the first time and settled in London. Warmly welcomed by Queen Anne, he was granted a pension, he was also patronised by King George I. German by birth, English by choice, and trained in Italian styles of music, Handel was a truly cosmopolitan composer.

The Late Baroque Period of art and architecture, lasting from about 1680 to 1750, was noted for its opulence and splendour. Handel, who worked during the latter part of this period, echoed much the same spirit in his music. Working for most of his life in London, Handel first wrote operas for the commercial theatre, in the prevailing grand and spectacular styles of Italian opera seria or "serious opera". When the public fancy for this kind of entertainment began to wane, Handel started writing oratorios - still operatic in style, but usually religious rather than secular.

In his big choral works and his many instrumental pieces, Handel, like his contemporary J.S.Bach, was a master of the polyphonic musical style, weaving themes around each other to create a rich tapestry of sound. In many ways, Handel is the essence of the Late Baroque period, just before it gave way to the new and very different style of the Classical Period.

Handel was larger than life. This is evident in not only the sheer majesty of his music and in the generous and self-confident man seen in his portraits, but in the aura of power that surrounded him. Both his lifestyle and his works took on a grand-scale quality. The world of opera in 18th century London was a cutthroat business. Fortunes were made and lost overnight, but Handel was more than able to take care of his own interests. There is a famous story about the way he dealt with one real-life "prima donna" who insisted on singing an aria her way, not his. He grabbed hold of her and dangled her out of an upstairs window, roaring that, while she might be a devil, he was Satan himself!

George Frideric Handel died in London on the 14th of April in 1759, and was buried in Westminster Abbey in the presence of some 3000 mourners.

contributed by Gifford, Katya


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