George Frideric Handel, 1685-1759


Selected Recordings

Concerto Grosso Op. 6. No. 11

Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah

Water Music Suite No.1

Selected Sheet Music

Hallelujah chorus from Messiah



Showcase Piece


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 Music, Music 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

Books and Music

Selected Books

Handel (Revised Edition)
Thames & Hudson, 2007
Christopher Hogwood
$19.76 on Amazon


“This is by far the best {Handel biography], both for detail and accuracy and for sheer readability. With the help of a good deal of 18th (and sometimes 19th) century literature which he quotes verbatim whenever it seems appropriate (but without overburdening his text with footnotes), Christopher Hogwood takes five long chapters to describe in great fulness the known facts – and some speculative ones – of the life of Handel from his birth through to his death in London in 1759. Hogwood limits himself to narrative and does not begin interpreting Handel’s music, nor does he discuss in too much detail the ins and outs of when Handel changed this or that aria.”—Leslie Richford on Amazon

George Frideric Handel: Composer of Messiah
Mott Media, 1987
Charles Ludwig
$8.09 on Amazon

“This book was very imformative and a very easy read. Having the historical perspective along with the musical output was very interesting. It is always interesting to learn about the mindset of the composer along with the constraints he is faced with while he is producing his music. I would recommend this book very much.”—Marilyn Brace on Amazon

Selected Music

Messiah The Messiah (2002), 2-CD set

Fireworks Music for the Royal Fireworks / Water Music (1990), 1 CD

Sonatas Complete Violin Sonatas (2005), 1 CD

More George Frederic Handel music

Complete Works

Handel’s compositions include 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios, and duets, numerous arias, chamber music, a large number of ecumenical pieces, odes and serenatas, and 16 organ concerti.

His oratorio Messiah, with its “Hallelujah” chorus, is among the most famous Baroque works and is a popular choice for performances during the Christmas season. Among Handel’s best-known instrumental works are the Concerti Grossi Opus 3 and 6, “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale,” in which birds are heard calling during passages played in different keys representing the vocal ranges of two birds, and his 16 keyboard suites, especially The Harmonious Blacksmith.

Collected editions of Handel’s works include the Händel-Gesellschaft and the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe, however the more recent Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis publication is now commonly used to number his works. For example, Handel’s Messiah can be referred to as HG xlv, HHA i/17, or HWV 56. Some of Handel’s music is also numbered based on initial publications. For example, a 1741 publication by Walsh labelled twelve of Handel’s concerti grossi as Opus 6.—Excerpted from Wikipedia

Handel produced hundreds of pieces over his career. Access complete list on Wikipedia. 

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