George Frederic Handel: Notes and Commentary

“Though George Frideric Handel’s best concerti grossi and orchestral suites is music of uncommon distinction, and though he filled his solo concerti and sonatas with the most infectious ideas, he is essentially a dramatic and not an instrumental composer. He gained his fame through operas—his immortality, through oratorios.”—David Ewen, The Complete Book of Classical Music

George Frideric Handel was a German-born British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music. He received critical musical training in Halle, Hamburg, and Italy before settling in London in 1712 and becoming a naturalised British subject in 1727. By then he was strongly influenced by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.

Within fifteen years, Handel had started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera, but the public came to hear the vocal bravura of the soloists rather than the music. In 1737 he had a physical breakdown, changed direction creatively, and addressed the middle class and made a transition to English choral works. After his success with Messiah (1742) he never performed an Italian opera again. Handel was only partly successful with his performances of English oratorio on mythical and biblical themes, but when he arranged a performance of Messiah to benefit the Foundling Hospital (1750) the criticism ended. Almost blind, and having lived in England for almost fifty years, he died in 1759, a respected and rich man.

Handel is regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time, with works such as Water MusicMusic for the Royal Fireworks, and Messiah remaining popular. Handel composed more than forty operas in over thirty years, and since the late 1960s, with the revival of baroque music and original instrumentation, interest in Handel’s operas has grown. He lived from February 23, 1685, to April 14, 1759.—Excerpted from Wikipedia

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