Handel, George Frideric

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Handel, George Frideric

Handel, George Frideric (the Anglicized form of the name, adopted by Handel in England; the original German spelling was Georg Friedrich Händel; other forms used in various branches of the family were Hendel, Hendeler, Händler, and Hendtler; the early spelling in England was Hendel; in France it is spelled Haendler; the Russian transliteration of the name from the Cyrillic alphabet, which lacks the aspirate, is Gen-del), great German-born English composer; b. Halle, Feb. 23, 1685; d. London, April 14, 1759. His father was a barber-surgeon and valet to the Prince of Saxe-Magdeburg; at the age of 61 he took a second wife, Dorothea Taust, daughter of the pastor of Giebichen-stein, near Halle; Handel was their second son. As a child, he was taken by his father on a visit to Saxe-Weissenfels, where he had a chance to try out the organ of the court chapel. The Duke, Johann Adolf, noticing his interest in music, advised that he be sent to Halle for organ lessons with Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau, the organist of the Liebfrauenkirche there. Zachau gave him instruction in harpsichord and organ playing and also introduced him to the rudiments of composition. Handel proved to be an apt student, and substituted for Zachau as organist whenever necessary; he also composed trio sonatas and motets for Sunday church services. After the death of his father in 1697, he entered the Univ. of Halle in 1702, and was named probationary organist at the Domkirche there. In 1703 he went to Hamburg, where he was engaged as ’Violino di ripi-eno” by Reinhard Keiser, the famous composer and director of the Hamburg Opera. There he met Johann Mattheson, and in 1703 the two undertook a journey to Lübeck together, with the intention of applying for the post of organist in succession to Buxtehude, who was chief organist there. There was apparently a quarrel between Mattheson and Handel at a performance of Mattheson’s opera Cleopatra, in which he sang the leading male role of Antonio, while Handel conducted from the keyboard as maestro al cembalo. When Mattheson completed his stage role, he asked Handel to yield his place at the keyboard to him; Handel declined, and an altercation ensued, resulting in a duel with swords, which was called off when Mattheson broke his sword on a metal button of Handel’s coat. There is no independent confirmation of this episode, however, and the two apparently reconciled.

Handel’s first opera, Almira, was premiered at the Hamburg Opera on Jan. 8, 1705; his next opera, Nero, was staged there on Feb. 25, 1705. He was then commissioned to write 2 other operas, Florindo and Daphne, originally planned as a single opera combining both subjects. In 1706 he undertook a long voyage to Italy, where he visited Florence, Rome, Naples, and Venice. The first opera he wrote in Italy was Rodrigo, presented in Florence in 1707. Then followed Agrippina, premiered in Venice on Dec. 26, 1709; it obtained an excellent success, being given 27 performances. In Rome, he composed the serenata II trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, performed there in the spring of 1707. Handel’s oratorio La Resurrezione was given in Rome on April 8, 1708. On July 19, 1708, he brought out in Naples his serenata Aci, Galatea, e Polifemo; its score was remarkable for a bass solo that required a compass of 2 octaves and a fifth. During his Italian sojourns, he met Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti. In 1710 he returned to Germany and was named Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hannover, as successor to Agostino Steffani. Later that year he visited England, where his opera Rinaldo was first performed at the Queen’s Theatre in London on Feb. 24, 1711; it received 15 performances. After a brief return to Hannover in June 1711, he made another visit to London, where his operas II Pastor fido (Nov. 22, 1712) and Teseo (Jan. 10, 1713) were premiered. He also wrote an ode for Queen Anne’s birthday, which was presented at Windsor Palace on Feb. 6, 1713; it was followed by 2 sacred works, performed on July 7, 1713, to celebrate the Peace of Utrecht; these performances won him royal favor and an annuity of 200 pounds sterling.

An extraordinary concurrence of events persuaded Handel to remain in London, when Queen Anne died in 1714 and Handel’s protector, the Elector of Hannover, became King George I of England. The King bestowed many favors upon the composer and augmented his annuity to 400 pounds sterling. Handel became a British subject in 1727, and Anglicized his name to George Frideric Handel, dropping the original German umlaut. He continued to compose operas, invariably to Italian librettos, for the London stage. His opera Siila was premiered in London on June 2, 1713; it was followed by Amadigi di Gaula on May 25, 1715. In 1716 Handel wrote Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus, to the text of the poet Heinrich Brockes. In 1717 he wrote one of his most famous works, written expressly for King George I, his Water Music. On July 17, 1717, an aquatic fête on the Thames River was held by royal order; the King’s boat was followed by a barge on which an orch. of 50 musicians played Handel’s score, or at least a major portion of it. The final version of the Water Music combines 2 instrumental suites composed at different times: one was written for the barge party; the other is of an earlier provenance. In 1717 Handel became resident composer to the Duke of Chandos, for whom he wrote the so-called Chandos Anthems (1717–18), the secular oratorio Acts and Galatea (1718), and the oratorio Esther (1718). He also served as music master to the daughters of the Prince of Wales; for Princess Anne he composed his first collection of Suites de pièces pour le clavecin (1720), also known as The Lessons, which includes the famous air with variations nicknamed The Harmonious Blacksmith. In 1719 he was made Master of Musick of a new business venture under the name of the Royal Academy of Music, established for the purpose of presenting opera at the King’s Theatre. The first opera he composed for it was Rad-amisto (April 27, 1720). In the fall of 1720 the Italian composer Giovanni Bononcini joined the company. A rivalry soon developed between him and Handel that was made famous by a piece of doggerel by the poet John Byrom (“Some say, compar’d to Bononcini, that Mynheer Handel’s but a ninny. Others aver that he to Handel is scarcely fit to hold a candle. Strange all this difference should be twixt tweedledum and tweedle-dee”). Handel won a Pyrrhic victory when Bononcini had the unfortunate idea of submitting to the London Academy of Music a madrigal which he had appropriated in extenso from a choral piece by the Italian composer Antonio Lotti; Lotti discovered it, and an embarrassing controversy ensued, resulting in Bononci-ni’s disgrace and expulsion from London (he died in obscurity in Vienna, where he sought refuge). The irony of the whole episode is that Handel was no less guilty of plagiarism. An article on Handel in the 1880 ed. of the Encyclopaedia Britannica spares no words condemning Handel’s conduct:“The system of wholesale plagiarism carried on by Handel is perhaps unprecedented in the history of music. He pilfered not only single melodies but frequently entire movements from the works of other masters, with few or no alterations, and without a word of acknowledgment/” Between 1721 and 1728 he composed the following operas for the King’s Theatre: Florindante, Ottone, Flavio, Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, Rodelinda Scipione, Alessandro, Adtneto, Riccardo Primo, Siroe, and Tolomeo; of these, Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda became firmly established in the operatic repertoire. In 1727 he composed 4 grand anthems for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline. In the spring of 1728 the Royal Academy of Music ceased operations, and Handel became associated with the management of the King’s Theatre. The following year, he went to Italy to recruit singers for a new Royal Academy of Music. Returning to London, he brought out the operas Lotario, Partenope, Poro, Ezio, Sosarme, and Orlando; only Orlando proved a lasting success. On May 2, 1732, Handel gave a special performance of a revised version of his oratorio Esther at the King’s Theatre; it was followed by the revised version of Acis and Galatea (June 10, 1732) and the oratorio Deborah (March 17, 1733). On July 10, 1733, his oratorio Athalia was first performed at Oxford, where he also appeared as an organist; he was offered, but declined, the degree of Mus.Doc. (honoris causa).

Discouraged by the poor reception of his operas at the King’s Theatre, Handel decided to open a new season under a different management. But he quarreled with the principal singer, the famous castrato Senesino, who was popular with audiences, and thus lost the support of a substantial number of his subscribers, who then formed a rival opera company called Opera of the Nobility. It engaged the famous Italian composer Porpora as director, and opened its first season at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on Dec. 29, 1733. Handel’s opera Arianna in Creta had its premiere at the King’s Theatre on Jan. 26, 1734, but in July of that year both Handel’s company and the rival enterprise were forced to suspend operations. Handel set up his own opera company at Covent Garden, inaugurating his new season with a revised version of II Pastor fido (Nov. 9, 1734); this was followed by Ariodante, Alcina, Atalanta, Arminio, Giustino, and Berenice, all staged between 1735 and 1737; only Alcina sustained a success; Handel’s other operas met with indifferent reception. On Feb. 19, 1736, he presented his ode Alexander’s Feast at Covent Garden, and on March 23, 1737, he brought out a revised version of his oratorio II trionfo del Tempo e della Verità. His fortunes improved when he was confirmed by the Queen as music master to Princesses Amelia and Caroline. He continued to maintain connections with Germany, and traveled to Aachen in 1737. Upon his return to London, he suffered from attacks of gout, an endemic illness of British society at the time, but he managed to resume his work. On Jan. 3, 1738, he brought out his opera Faramondo, and on April 15, 1738, presented his opera Serse (a famous aria from this opera, Ombra mai fu, became even more famous in an instrumental arrangement made by parties unknown, under the title “quo;Handel’s Celebrated Largo”). There followed a pasticcio, Giove in Argo (May 1, 1739), and Imeneo (Nov. 22, 1740). On Jan. 10, 1741, his last opera, Deidamia, was premiered there, which marked the end of his operatic enterprise.

In historical perspective, Handel’s failure as an operatic entrepreneur was a happy turn of events, for he then directed his energy toward the composition of oratorios, in which he achieved greatness. For inspiration, he turned to biblical themes, using English texts. On Jan. 16, 1739, he presented the oratorio Saul; on April 4, 1739, there followed Israel in Egypt. He also wrote an Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, after Dryden (Nov. 22, 1739), and his great set of 12 Concerti grossi, op.6. Milton’s L’Allegro and // Penser oso inspired him to write L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato (Feb. 27, 1740). In 1741 he was invited to visit Ireland, where he composed his greatest masterpiece, Messiah; working with tremendous concentration of willpower and imagination, he completed Part I in 6 days, Part II in 9 days, and Part III in 6 days. The work on orchestration took him only a few more days; he signed the score on Sept. 14, 1741. The first performance of Messiah was given in Dublin on April 13, 1742, and its London premiere was presented on March 23, 1743. If contemporary reports can be trusted, King George II rose to his feet at the closing chords of the “quo;Hallelujah” chorus, and the entire audience followed suit. This established a tradition, at least in England. Handel’s oratorio Samson, first performed in London on Feb. 18, 1743, was also successful, but his next oratorio, Semele (Feb. 10, 1744), failed to arouse public admiration. Continuing to work, and alternating between mythological subjects and religious themes, he composed Joseph and His Brethren (March 2, 1744), Hercules (Jan. 5, 1745), and Belshazzar (March 27, 1745). His subsequent works, composed between 1746 and 1752, were the Occasional Oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus, Joshua, Alexander Balus, Susanna, Solomon, Theodora, The Choice of Hercules, and Jephtha. Of these, Judas Maccabaeus, Solomon, and Jephtha became public favorites. Besides oratorios, mundane events also occupied his attention. To celebrate the Peace of Aachen, he composed the remarkable Music for the Royal Fireworks, heard for the first time in Green Park in London on April 27, 1749. In 1750 he revisited Germany. But soon he had to limit his activities on account of failing eyesight, which required the removal of cataracts; the operation proved unsuccessful, but he still continued to appear in performances of his music, with the assistance of his pupil John Christopher Smith. Handel’s last appearance in public was at the London performance of Messiah on April 6, 1759; 8 days later, on April 14, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, he died. He was buried at Westminster Abbey; a monument by Roubiliac marks his grave. (It should be noted that the year of birth on Handel’s gravestone is marked as 1684 rather than 1685; this discrepancy is explained by the fact that at that time the calendar year in England and other European countries began in March, not in January.)

A parallel between the two great German contemporaries, Bach and Handel, is often drawn. Born a few months apart, Bach in Eisenach, Handel in Halle, at a distance of about 130 kilometers, they never met. Bach visited Halle at least twice, but Handel was then away, in London. The difference between their life’s destinies was profound. Bach was a master of the Baroque organ who produced religious works for church use, a schoolmaster who regarded his instrumental music as a textbook for study; he never composed for the stage, and traveled little. By contrast, Handel was a man of the world who dedicated himself mainly to public spectacles, and who became a British subject. Bach’s life was that of a German burgher; his genius was inconspicuous; Handel shone in the light of public admiration. Bach was married twice; survivors among his 20 children became important musicians in their own right. Handel remained celibate, but he was not a recluse. Physically, he tended toward healthy corpulence; he enjoyed the company of friends, but had a choleric temperament, and could not brook adverse argument. Like Bach, he was deeply religious, and there was no ostentation in his service to his God. Handel’s music possessed grandeur of design, majestic eloquence, and lusciousness of harmony. Music-lovers did not have to study Handel’s style to discover its beauty, while the sublime art of Bach could be fully understood only after knowledgeable penetration into the contrapuntal and fugai complexities of its structure.

Handel bequeathed the bulk of his MSS to his amanuensis, John Christopher Smith, whose son presented them in turn to King George III. They eventually became a part of the King’s Music Library; they comprise 32 vols, of operas, 21 vols, of oratorios, 7 vols, of odes and serenatas, 12 vols, of sacred music, 11 vols, of cantatas, and 5 vols, of instrumental music. Seven vols, containing sketches for various works are in the Fitzwilliam Collection at Cambridge. In 1991 the Neue Deutsche Händel-Gesellschaft was founded in Bonn.


dramatic: Opera: Almira (Theater am Gänsemarkt, Hamburg, Jan. 8, 1705; part of music not extant); Nero (Theater am Gänsemarkt, Feb. 25, 1705; music not extant); Rodrigo (Accademia degli Infuocata, Florence, 1706 or 1707; part of music not extant); Florindo and Daphne (presented as 2 separate operas, Theater am Gänsemarkt, Jan. 1708; only a small part of music extant); Agrippina (Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, Venice, Dec. 26, 1709); Rinaldo (Queen’s Theatre, London, Feb. 24, 1711; major rev., King’s Theatre, London, April 6, 1731); II Pastor fido (Queen’s Theatre, Nov. 22, 1712; rev. versions, King’s Theatre, May 18, 1734, and Nov. 9, 1734 [the latter with ballet Terpsicore]); Teseo (Queen’s Theatre, Jan. 10, 1713); Siila (Queen’s Theatre, or Burlington House, June 2, 1713); Amadigi di Gaula (King’s Theatre, May 25, 1715); Rad-amisto (King’s Theatre, April 27, 1720; rev. versions there, Dec. 28, 1720, and Jan.-Feb. 1728); Fiondante (King’s Theatre, Dec. 9, 1721; rev. version there, March 3, 1733); Ottone, re di Germania (King’s Theatre, Jan. 12, 1723; rev. versions there, Feb. 8, 1726, and Nov. 13, 1733); Flavio, ré di Longobardi (King’s Theatre, May 14, 1723; major rev. there, April 18, 1732); Giulio Cesare in Egitto (King’s Theatre, Feb. 20, 1724; rev. versions there, Jan. 2, 1725, and Jan. 17, 1730); Tamerlano (King’s Theatre, Oct. 31, 1724); Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi (King’s Theatre, Feb. 13, 1725); Scipione (King’s Theatre, March 12, 1726; rev. version there, Nov. 3, 1730); Alessandro (King’s Theatre, May 5, 1726); Adtneto, ré di Tessaglia (King’s Theatre, Jan. 31, 1727; rev. version there, Dec. 7, 1731); Riccardo Primo, ré d’Inghilterra (King’s Theatre, Nov. 11, 1727); Siroe, re di Persia (King’s Theatre, Feb. 17, 1728); Tolomeo, re di Egitto (King’s Theatre, April 30, 1728; major rev. there, May 19, 1730); Lotario (King’s Theatre, Dec. 2, 1729); Partenope (King’s Theatre, Feb. 24, 1730; rev. version there, Dec. 12, 1730; later rev. for Covent Garden, London, Jan. 29, 1737); Poro, ré dell’Indie (King’s Theatre, Feb. 2, 1731; rev. versions there, Nov. 23, 1731, and Dec. 8, 1736); Ezio (King’s Theatre, Jan. 15, 1732); Sosarme, re di Media (King’s Theatre, Feb. 15, 1732); Orlando (King’s Theatre, Jan. 27, 1733); Arianna in Creta (King’s Theatre, Jan. 26, 1734; rev. for Covent Garden, Nov. 27, 1734); Oreste, a pasticcio with music by Handel (Covent Garden, Dec. 18, 1734); Ariodante (Covent Garden, Jan. 8, 1735); Alcina (Covent Garden, April 16, 1735); Atalanta (Covent Garden, May 12, 1736); Arminio (Covent Garden, Jan. 12, 1737); Giustino (Covent Garden, Feb. 16, 1737); Berenice (Covent Garden, May 18, 1737); Far amondo (King’s Theatre, Jan. 3, 1738); Alessandro Severo, pasticcio with music by Handel (King’s Theatre, Feb. 25, 1738); Serse (King’s Theatre, April 15, 1738); Giove in Argo, pasticcio (King’s Theatre, May 1, 1739); Imeneo (Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, Nov. 22, 1740); Deidamia (Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Jan. 10, 1741). Also Muzio Scevola (Act 3 by Handel; Act 1 by F. Amadei and Act 2 by G. Bononcini; King’s Theatre, April 15, 1721); Genserico (only part of Act 1 drafted); Tito (only scenes 1-3 of Act 1 composed); Alceste (greater part of music used in the oratorio The Choice of Hercules; see below). ORCH.: Six Concerti Grossi, op.3: No. 1, in B-flat major; No. 2, in B-flat major; No. 3, in G major; No. 4, in F major; No. 5, in D minor; No. 6, in D major/D minor (publ, as a set in London, 1734); 12 Concerti Grossi, op.6: No. 1, in G major; No. 2, in F major; No. 3, in C minor; No. 4, in A minor; No. 5, in D major; No. 6, in G minor; No. 7, in B-flat major; No. 8, in C minor; No. 9, in F major; No. 10, in D minor; No. 11, in A major; No. 12, in B minor (publ, as a set in London, 1740). Also 19 organ concertos; 3 Concerti a due cori (mostly arranged from other works); Water Music (greater part of music perf. during the royal barge excursion on the Thames River, July 17, 1717); Music for the Royal Fireworks (Green Park, London, April 27, 1749); overtures; sinfonie; many marches. CHAMBER: Twenty trio sonatas: op.2, no. 1, in B minor, for Flute or Violin, Violin, and Basso Continuo; op.2, no. 2, in G minor, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.2, no. 3, in E-flat major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.2, no. 4, in F major, for Flute or Recorder or Violin, Violin, and Basso Continuo; op.2, no. 5, in G minor, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.2, no. 6, in G minor, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.5, no. 1, in A major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.5, no. 2, in D major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.5, no. 3, in E minor, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.5, no. 4, in G major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.5, no. 5, in G minor, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.5, no. 6, in F major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; op.5, no. 7, in B-flat major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; in C minor, for Recorder or Flute, Violin, and Basso Continuo; in F major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; in E major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; in E minor, for 2 Flutes and Basso Continuo; in F major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; in C major, for 2 Violins and Basso Continuo; 17 solo sonatas with Basso Continuo: No. 1, in A minor, for Recorder; No. 2, in B-flat major, for Recorder; No. 3, in C major, for Recorder; No. 4, in D minor, for Recorder; No. 5, in F major, for Recorder; No. 6, in G minor, for Recorder; No. 7, in E minor, for Flute; No. 8, in B-flat major, for Oboe; No. 9, in C minor, for Oboe; No. 10, in F major, most likely for Oboe; No. 11, in A major, for Violin; No. 12, in D major, for Violin; No. 13, in D minor, for Violin; No. 14, in G major, for Violin; No. 15, in G minor, for Violin; No. 16, in G minor, for Viola da Gamba; No. 17, in A major, for Violin. Also Suites de pièces pour le clavecin (2 books, London, 1720 and 1733) and additional works for keyboard. vocal: oratorios:Oratorio per la Resurrezione di Nostro Signor Gesù Cristo (Palazzo Ruspoli, Rome, April 8, 1708); Acis and Galatea (Cannons, 1718; major rev., King’s Theatre, June 10, 1732; also subsequent revs.); Esther (Cannons, 1718; major rev., King’s Theatre, May 2, 1732; also subsequent additions); Deborah (King’s Theatre, March 17, 1733; also subsequent revs.); Athalia (Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, July 10, 1733; major rev., Covent Garden, April 1, 1735); II Parnasso in festa (greater part of music from Athalia; King’s Theatre, March 13, 1734); Saul (King’s Theatre, Jan. 16, 1739; also subsequent revs.); Israel in Egypt (King’s Theatre, April 4, 1739; also subsequent extensive changes); Messiah (New Music Hall, Dublin, April 13, 1742; also numerous revs, made for many subsequent perfs.); Samson (Covent Garden, Feb. 18, 1743; also subsequent revs.); Semele (Covent Garden, Feb. 10, 1744); Joseph and His Brethren (Covent Garden, March 2, 1744; also subsequent revs.); Hercules (King’s Theatre, Jan. 5, 1745); Belshazzar (King’s Theatre, March 27, 1745; rev. version, Covent Garden, Feb. 22, 1751); Occasional Oratorio, pasticcio (Covent Garden, Feb. 14, 1746); Judas Maccabaeus (Covent Garden, April 1, 1747; also many subsequent revs.); Alexander Balus (Covent Garden, March 23, 1748; rev. version, March 1, 1754); Susanna (Covent Garden, Feb. 10, 1749); Solomon (Covent Garden, March 17, 1749); Theodora (Covent Garden, March 16, 1750); The Choice of Hercules (greater part of music from Alceste; Covent Garden, March 1, 1751); Jephtha (Covent Garden, Feb. 26, 1752); The Triumph of Time and Truth (greater part of music from II trionfo del Tempo e della Verità Covent Garden, March 11, 1757). passions:Passion According to St. John (most likely spurious; Hamburg, Feb. 17, 1704); Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus, the so-called Brockes Passion (Hamburg?, 1716). serenatas:II trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (Rome, 1707?; major rev. as II trionfo del Tempo e della Verità, Covent Garden, March 23, 1737); Ad, Galatea, e Polifemo (Naples, July 19, 1708). odes:Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Windsor, Feb. 6, 1713); Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day or Alexander’s Feast (Covent Garden, Feb. 19, 1736). english church music: Te Deum and Jubilate in D major, “quo;Utrecht” (for the Peace of Utrecht; St. Paul’s, London, July 7, 1713); Te Deum in D major, “quo;Caroline” (Chapel Royal, London, Sept. 26, 1714); 11 Chandos Anthems: As pants the hart; Have mercy upon me, O God; In the Lord put I my trust; I will magnify thee, O God; Let God arise; My song shall be alway; O be joyful; O come let us sing unto the Lord; O praise the Lord with one consent; O sing unto the Lord; The Lord is my light (1717–18); Te Deum in B-flat major, “quo;Chandos” (c. 1718); Te Deum in A major (based upon the “quo;Chandos” Te Deum; 1721-26); 4 Coronation Anthems: Let thy hand be strengthened; My heart is inditing; The king shall rejoice; Zadok the priest (for the coronation of King George II; Westminster Abbey, London, Oct. 11, 1727); Funeral Anthem: The ways of Zion do mourn (for the funeral of Queen Caroline; Westminster Abbey, Dec. 17, 1737); Te Deum and Anthem in D major, “quo;Dettingen” (for the victory at Dettingen; Chapel Royal, Nov. 27, 1743); Anthem on the Peace: How beautiful are the feet (for the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle; Chapel Royal, April 25, 1749); Found- ling Hospital Anthem: Blessed are they that considereth the poor (Foundling Hospital, London, May 27, 1749). latin church music:Laudate pueri Dominum in F major (c. 1706); O qualis de caelo sonus in G major, motet (Vignanello, June 12, 1707); Coelestis dum spirat aura in D/G major, motet (Vignanello, June 13, 1707); Laudate pueri Dominum in D major (1707); Dixit Dominus in G minor (1707); Nisi Dominus in G major (1707); Silete venti in B-flat major, motet (c. 1729). secular cantatas, dramatic (unless otherwise indicated, date is unknown): Aminta e Fillide (1708); Clori, Tirsi e Fileno (1707); II duello amoroso (1708); Apollo e Dafne (e. 1708); Olinto, II Tebro, Gloria (1708); etc. solo and duo cantatas with instruments:Agrippina condotta a morire (e. 1708); Ah! crudel nel pianto mio (e. 1707); Alpestre monto; Armida abbandonata (1707); Cantata spagnuola (1707); Carco sempre di gloria (1737); Cecilia, volgi un sguardo (1736); Clori, mia bella Clori; Crudel tiranno amor (1721); Cuopre tal volta; II delirio amoroso (1707); Diana cacciatrice (1707); Figlio d’alte speranze; Languia di bocca lusinghiera; Mi palpita il cor; Pensieri notturni di Filli; Notte placida e cheta (1708); Qual ti riveggio, oh Dio; Spande ancor; Splende l’alba in oriente; Tra le fiamme; Tu fedeli tu costante? (1707); Un alma innamorata (1707); Venus and Adonis (e. 1711). solo cantatas with basso continuo:Ah, che pur troppo e vero; Allor ch’io dissi; Aure soavi e liete (1707); Bella ma ritrosetta; Care selve; Chi rapi la pace (1709); Clori, degli occhi miei; Clori, ove sei; Clori, si ch’io t’adoro (may not be by Handel); Clori, vezzosa Clori (1708); Dal fatale momento; Dalla guerra amorosa (1709); Da sete ardente afflitto (1709); Deh! lasciate e vita e volo; Del bel idolo mio (1709); Dimmi, o mio cor; Dite, mie piante (1708); Dolce pur d’amor l’affanno; E partirai, mia vita?; Figli del mesto cor; Filli adorata e cara (1709); Fra pensieri quel pensiero; Fra tante pene (1709); Hendel, non può mia musa (1708); Ho fuggito amore; Irene, idolo mio; L’aure grate, il fresco rio; Lungi dal mio bel nume (1708); Lungi da me pensier tiranno (1709); Lungi da voi, che siete poli (1708); Lungi n’andò Fileno (1708); Manca pur quanto sai (1708); Mentre il tutto è in furore (1708); Menzognere speranze (1707); Mi, palpita il cor; Nel dolce tempo; Nell-africane selve; Nella stagion, che di viole (1707); Ne’ tuoi lumi, o bella Clori (1707); Nice che fa? che pensa?; Ninfe e pastori (1709); Non sospirar, non piangere; Occhi miei, che faceste?; O lucenti, o sereni occhi; O numi eterni (1709); Parti, l’idolo mio; Poiché giuraro amore (1707); Qualfior che all’alba ride (e. 1739); Qualor crudele si mia vaga Dori; Qualor l’egre pupille (1707); Qual sento io non conosciuto (may not be by Handel); Quando sperasti, o core (1708); Sans y penser; Sarai contenta un di; Sarei troppo felice (1707); Sei pur bella, pur vezzosa (1707); Sento là che ristretto (1709); Se pari è la tua fé (1708); Se per fatai destino (1707); Siete rose rugiadose; S’il ne falloit; Solitudini care, amata libertà; Son gelsomino; Stanco di più soffrire (1708); Stelle, perfide stelle; Torna il core al suo diletto; Udite il meo consiglio (1707); Un sospir a chi si muove; Vedendo amor; Venne voglia ad amore; Zeffiretto, arresta il volo (1709). Also 22 duets and trios with Continuo; more than 30 English songs; 9 German arias; Italian songs; French songs.


collected editions, source material: The first ed. of Handel’s collected works was edited by S. Arnold in 180 installments in 54 vols. (1787–97). It was superseded by the monumental ed. prepared by F. Chrysander under the title G. F. H.s Werke: Ausgabe der deutschen Händelgesellschaft (100 vols., Leipzig and Bergedorf bei Hamburg, 1858-94; 6 suppl. vols., 1888-1902). In 1955 the Hallische H.-Ausgabe was begun as a suppl. to the Chrysander ed.; however, it soon became a new critical ed. in its own right, being edited by M. Schneider and R. Steglich as the Hallische H.-Ausgabe im Auftrage der Georg Friedrich H.-Gesellschaft, and publ. in Kassel. A. Bell ed. a Chronological Catalogue of H.’s Work (Greenock, Scotland, 1969). Other sources include the following: N. Flower, Catalogue of a H. Collection Formed by Newman Flower (Sevenoaks, 1920); W. Squire, Catalogue of the King’s Music Library, I: The H Manuscripts (London, 1927); H. Shaw, A First List of Word-books of H.’s “quo;Messiah,” 1742-83 (Worcester, 1959); W. Smith and C. Humphries, H.: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Early Editions (London, 1960; 2nd ed., rev., 1970); H. Feder-hofer, Unbekannte Kopien von Werken G. F. H.s (Kassel, 1963); K. Sasse, H.-Bibliographie (Leipzig, 1963; new ed., 1967; with suppl, 1969); W. Smith, A H.ian’s Notebook (London, 1965); R Krause, Handschriften und altere Drucke der Werke G. F. H.’s in der Musikbibliothek der Stadt Leipzig (Leipzig, 1966); A. Hyatt King, H. and His Autographs (London, 1967); W. Meyerhoff, ed., 50 Jahre Göttinger H.-Festspiele. Festschrift (Kassel, 1970); H. Clausen, H.s Direktionspartituren (”Handexemplare”) (Hamburg, 1972); A. Walker, G. F. H: The Newman Flower Collection in the Henry Watson Music Library (Manchester, 1972); H. Marx, Göttinger H-Beitrage I (Kassel, 1984); B. Baselt, Verzeichnis der Werke G. F. H.s (HWV) (Leipzig, 1986); M. Parker-Hale, G. F. H.: A Guide to Research (N.Y., 1988); D. Burrows and M. Ronish, A Catalogue of H.’s Musical Autographs (Oxford, 1993); D. Burrows, ed., The Cambridge Companion to H. (Cambridge, 1997). biographical: J. Mainwaring, Memoirs of the Late G. F. H. (London, 1760; reprint, 1967); J. Mattheson, G. F.H.S Lebensbeschreibung (based almost entirely on Mainwaring’s biography; Hamburg, 1761; reprint, 1976); C. Burney, An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon May 26th, 27th, 29th; and June 3rd and 5th, 1784: In Commemoration of H (London, 1785; reprint, 1965); W. Coxe, Anecdotes of G. F H. and John Christopher Smith (London, 1799; reprint, 1980); R. Clark, Reminiscences of H. (London, 1836); K. Förstemann, G. F. H.s Stammbaum (Leipzig, 1844); W. Callcott, A Few Facts in the Life of H. (London, 1850); H. Townsend, An Account of H.’s Visit to Dublin: With Incidental Notices of His Life and Character (Dublin, 1852); V. Schoelcher, The Life of H (London, 1857); A. Stothard, H: His Life, Personal and Professional (London, 1857); F. Chry-sander, G. F. H. (3 vols., Leipzig, 1858-67; reprint, 1966); J. Marshall, H. (London, 1881; 3rd ed., 1912); W. Rockstro, The Life ofG. F. H. (London, 1883); J. Opel, Mitteilungen zur Geschichte der Familie des Tonkünstlers H. (Leipzig, 1885); A. Ademollo, G. F. H. in Italia (Milan, 1889); F. Volbach, G. F. H. (Berlin, 1897; 3rd ed., 1914); W. Cummings, H. (London, 1904); F. Williams, H. (London, 1904); J. Hadden, Life of H. (London, 1905); R. Streatfeild, H. (London, 1909; reprint, 1964); R. Rolland, H (Paris, 1910; 2nd ed., 1974; Eng. tr., 1916; reprint, 1975); M. Brenet, H. (Paris, 1912); H. Davey, H. (London, 1912); G. Thormälius, G. F. H. (Stuttgart, 1912); R. Streatfeild, H, Canons and the Duke of Chandos (London, 1916); N. Flower, G. F H: His Personality and His Times (London, 1923; 3rd ed., rev., 1959); H. Leichtentritt, H. (Stuttgart, 1924); H. Moser, Der junge H. und seine Vorgänger in Halle (Halle, 1929); J. Müller-Blattau, G. F. H. (Potsdam, 1933); E. Dent, H. (London, 1934); L. Liebeman, G. F. H. und Halle (Halle, 1935); E. Müller, ed., The Letters and Writings ofG. F. H. (London, 1935); C. Williams, H. (London, 1935); H. Weinstock, H. (N.Y., 1946; 2nd ed., rev., 1959); P. Young, H. (London, 1946; 3rd ed., rev., 1975); W. Smith, Concerning H, His Life and Works (London, 1948); A.-E. Cherbuliez, G. F H: Leben und Werk (Ölten, 1949); H. and E.H. Müller von Asow, G. F. H: Briefe und Schriften (Lindau, 1949); O. Deutsch, H: A Documentary Biography (N.Y, 1954, and London, 1955); W. Siegmund-Schultze, G. F. H: Leben und Werke (Leipzig, 1954; 3rd ed., rev., 1962); W. Serauky, G. F H.: Sein Leben, sein Werk (only vols. III-V publ.; Kassel, 1956-58); P. Netti, G. F. H. (Berlin, 1958); R. Friedenthal, G. F. H. in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Hamburg, 1959; 3rd ed., Reinbeck, 1967); J. Müller-Blattau, G. F. H: Der Wille zur Volldendung (Mainz, 1959); W. Rackwitz and H. Steffens, G. F H: Persönlichkeit, Umwelt, Vermächtnis (Leipzig, 1962); S. Sadie, H. (London, 1962); P. Lang, G. F. H. (N.Y., 1966); K. Sasse, Bildsammlung; Hogarth-Grafik; Darstellung zur Geschichte, H-pfege und Musikkunde (Halle, 1967); M. Szentkuthy, H. (Budapest, 1967); W. Siegmund-Schultze, ed., G. F. H.: Beiträge zu seiner Biographie aus dem 18. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1977); C. Hogwood, H. (London, 1984); H. C. Robbins Landon, H. and His World (Boston, 1984); J. Keates, H: The Man and His Music (London, 1985); W Rackwitz, G. F. H: Lebensbeschreibung in Bildern (Wiesbaden, 1986); C. Ludwig, G. F H: Composer of Messiah (Milford, Mich., 1987); D. Burrows, H. (N.Y., 1994); S. Pettitt, H. (N.Y, 1994); K. Hortschansky and K. Musketa, eds., G. F. H.; Ein Lebensinhalt: Gedenkschrift für Bernd Baselt (1934–1993) (Halle an der Saale, 1995); J.-J. Schmelzer, Siehe, dein König kommt: Leben und Musik des G. F. H: Eine Biographie (Düsseldorf, 1995). critical, analytical (in addition to the writings listed below, important articles may be found in the H. -Jahrbuch[1928-33; 1955 et seq.]): G. Gervinus, H. und Shakespeare: Zur Ästhetik der Tonkunst (Leipzig, 1868); R. Franz, Über Bearbeitungen älterer Tonwerke, namenlich Bachscher und H.scher Vokalmusik (Leipzig, 1871; reprinted by R. Bethge as Gesammelte Schriften über die Wiederbelebung Bachscher und H.scher Werke, Leipzig, 1910); E. Frommel, H. und Bach (Berlin, 1878); F. Chrysander, H.s biblische Oratorien in geschichtlicher Betrachtung (Hamburg, 1897); F. Volbach, Die Praxis der H.-Aufführung (Charlottenburg, 1900); G. Vernier, L’Oratorio biblique de H. (Cahors, 1901); J. Garât, La Sonate de H. (Paris, 1905); E. Bernoulli, Quellen zum Studium Handelscher Chorwerke (Leipzig, 1906); S. Taylor, The Indebtedness of H. to Works by Other Composers (Cambridge, 1906); P. Robinson, H. and His Orbit (London, 1908); A. Schering, Geschichte des Oratoriums (Leipzig, 1911); H. Abert, H. als Dramatiker (Göttingen, 1921); E. Bairstow, The Messiah (London, 1928); F. Kahle, H.s Cembalo-Suiten (Berlin, 1928); E. Bredenfoerder, Die Texte der H.-Oratorien (Leipzig, 1934); F. Ehrlinger, H.s Orgelkonzerte (Erlangen, 1934); E. Völsing, G. F. H.s englische Kirchenmusik (Leipzig, 1940); J. Eisenschmidt, Die szenische Darstellung der Opern H.s auf der Londoner Bühne seiner Zeit (Wolfenbüttel, 1940-41); J. Herbage, Messiah (London, 1948); R. Myers, H.’s Messiah, A Touchstone of Taste (N.Y, 1948); P. Young, The Oratorios of H. (London, 1949); G. Abraham, ed., H.: A Symposium (London, 1954); R. Myers, H., Dryden and Milton (London, 1956); J. Larsen, H.’s Messiah: Origins, Composition, Sources (London, 1957; 2nd ed., rev., 1972); H. Wolff, Die H.-Oper auf der modernen Bühne (Leipzig, 1957); W. Dean, H.’s Dramatic Oratorios and Masques (London, 1959); H. Dietz, Die Chorfuge bei G. F. H. (Tutzing, 1961); H. Shaw, The Story of H.’s Messiah (London, 1963); J. Tobin, H. at Work (London, 1964); H. Shaw, A Textual and Historical Companion to H.’s Messiah (London, 1965); D. Kimbell, A Critical Study of H.’s Early Operas (diss., Univ. of Oxford, 1968); W Dean, H. and the Opera Seria (Berkeley, Calif., 1969); J. Tobin, H.’s Messiah (London, 1969); S. Sadie, H. Concertos (London, 1972); H. Friedrichs, Das Verhältnis von Text und Musik in den Brockespassionen Keisers, H.s, Telemanns und Matthesons (Munich and Salzburg, 1975); G. Beeks, The Chandos Anthems and Te Deum of G. F. H (diss., Univ. of Calif., Berkeley, 1977); E. Harris, H. and the Pastoral Tradition (London, 1980); H. Hoffmann, G. F fi.: Vom Opernkomponisten zum Meister des Oratoriums (Marburg an der Lahn, 1983); D. Burrows, H. and the Chapel Royal (London, 1984); R. Strohm, Essays on H. and Italian Opera (Cambridge, 1985); P. Williams, ed., Bach, H. and Scarlatti: Tercentenary Essays (Cambridge, 1985); H. Meynell, The Art ofH.’s Operas (Lewiston, N.Y, 1986); W. Dean and J. Knapp, H.’s Operas 1704-1726 (Oxford, 1987); N. Pirrotta and A. Zino, eds., H. e gli Scarlatti a Roma: Atti del convegno internazionale di studi (Roma, 12-14 giugno 1985) (Florence, 1987); J. Larsen, Essays on H., Haydn, and the Viennese Classical Style (tr. by U. Krämer; Ann Arbor, 1988); P. Rogers, Continuo Realization in H.’s Music (Ann Arbor, 1988); S. Sadie and A. Hicks, eds., H Tercentenary Collection (Ann Arbor, 1988); D. Burrows, H.: Messiah (Cambridge, 1991); C. LaRue, H. and His Singers: The Creation of the Royal Academy Operas, 1720-1728 (Oxford, 1995); R. Smith, H.’s Oratorios and Eighteenth-Century Thought (Cambridge, 1995); A. Mann, H, the Orchestral Music: Orchestral Concertos, Organ Concertos, Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks (N.Y., 1996); U. Etscheit, H.s “quo;Rodelinda” (Kassel, 1998); H. Marx, H.s Oratorien, Oden und Serenaten: Ein Kompendium (Göttingen, 1998).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Handel, George Frideric

views updated May 29 2018

Handel, George Frideric [ Händel, Georg Friedrich] (b Halle, 1685; d London, 1759). Ger.-born composer and organist (Eng. cit. 1726). Son of a barber-surgeon who opposed mus. as his son's career though he permitted lessons from Zachau, composer and org. of Liebfrauenkirche, Halle. Handel studied law at Halle Univ., turning to full-time mus. when his father died. He went to Hamburg in 1703 where he joined the opera house under the composer Reinhard Keiser, playing 2nd vn. in the orch. His first opera Almira, written because Keiser lost interest in the lib., which Handel took over, was prod. there in 1705, being followed by 3 others. In 1706 Handel went to Italy in a prince's retinue, meeting Corelli, the Scarlattis, and other leading figures, and rapidly attaining mastery of It. style in opera, chamber mus., and vocal mus. He was acclaimed as a genius, the rival of his It. contemporaries. His opera Rodrigo was perf. in Florence in 1707 and Agrippina in Venice in 1709. The following year he was appointed court cond. in Hanover and was also invited to write an opera (Rinaldo) for London, where he quickly realized the possibilities for his own success and, after settling his affairs in Hanover, settled there permanently.

For the next 35 years Handel was immersed in the ups and downs of operatic activity in London where the It. opera seria was the dominant force. In 1712 he received a pension of £200 a year for life from Queen Anne, this being increased to £600 by King George I, his former ruler in Hanover, for whom in 1717 he comp. the famous Water Music suite. From 1717 to 1720 Handel was resident comp. to the Earl of Carnarvon (Duke of Chandos from April 1719) at his palace of Cannons in Edgware. The 11 Chandos Anthems were the chief fruit of this appointment. In 1719 Handel, in assoc. with G. Bononcini and Ariosti, was a mus. dir. of the so-called Royal Acad. of Mus. (not a coll. but a business venture to produce It. opera). Handel travelled abroad to engage singers and in the 8 years until the acad. closed because of lack of support he comp. 14 operas, among them Radamisto, Rodelinda, Admeto, and Tolomeo. In 1727, for the coronation of George II, Handel wrote 4 anthems, incl. Zadok the Priest, which has been sung at every Brit. coronation since then.

The success of Gay's The Beggar's Opera and imitative works was the prin. cause of the falling-away of support for Handel's co. He went to It. to hear operas by composers such as Porpora and Pergolesi and to engage the leading It. singers. Back in London in partnership with Heidegger at the King's Theatre, Handel wrote Lotario (1729), Partenope (1730), and Orlando (1733). In 1734 he moved to the new CG Th., for which he wrote two of his greatest operas, Ariodante (prod. Jan. 1735) and Alcina (prod. Ap. 1735), but he recognized that the popularity of It. opera was declining and began, somewhat unwillingly, to develop the genre of dramatic oratorios which is perhaps his most orig. contribution to the art of mus. Esther (1732 in rev. form) and Acis and Galatea are typical examples. Ironically, released from the conventions of opera seria, Handel's dramatic gifts found wider and more expressive outlets in the oratorio form. Scores contain stage directions and the use of ch. and orch. became more dramatic and rich. He cond. several oratorio perf. in London, 1735, playing his own org. concs. as entr'actes. Nevertheless he continued to write operas and between 1737 and 1740 comp. Berenice, Serse, Imeneo, and Deidamia.

In 1737 Handel's health cracked under the strain of his operatic labours and he had a stroke. Following his recovery, he wrote a series of oratorios, incl. Messiah, prod. Dublin, 1742. By this work his name is known throughout the world, yet it is something of an oddity in Handel's work since he was not a religious composer in the accepted sense. But its power, lyricism, sincerity, and profundity make it one of the supreme mus. creations as well as an outstanding example of devotional art. It was followed by Samson, Judas Maccabaeus, and Solomon. The success of these works made Handel the idol of the Eng., and that popularity dominated Eng. mus. for nearly 150 years after his death. Not until Handel's operas were revived in Ger. in the 1920s was the perspective corrected and the importance of that branch of his art restored. Superb as are Handel's instr. comps. such as the concerti grossi, sonatas, and suites, it is in the operas and oratorios that the nobility, expressiveness, invention, and captivation of his art are found at their highest degree of development. He did not revolutionize operatic form but he brought the novelty of his genius to the genre as he found it. The scene-painting and illustrative qualities of his orchestration are remarkable even at a period when naive and realistic effects were common currency.

For the last 7 years of his life Handel was blind, but he continued to conduct oratorio perfs. and to revise his scores with assistance from his devoted friend John Christopher Smith. His works were pubd. by the Ger. Handel Gesellschaft in a complete edn. (1859–94) of 100 vols., ed. Chrysander, and a new edn., the Hallische Handel-Ausgabe, is in progress. Prin. comps.:OPERAS: Hamburg: Almira, Nero (lost) (both 1705), Florindo e Dafne (lost) (1707); Florence: Rodrigo (1707); Venice: Agrippina (1709); London: Rinaldo (1711, rev. 1731), Il pastor fido (1712; 2nd version with ballet Terpsicore, 1734); Teseo (1712); Silla (1714); Amadigi di Gaula (1715); Radamisto (1720, rev. 1720, 1721, 1728); Muzio Scevola, Floridante (both 1721); Ottone (1722); Flavio (1723); Giulio Cesare in Egitto (1723–4); Tamerlano (1724, rev. 1731); Rodelinda, regina de'Longobardi (1725); Scipione, Alessandro (both 1726); Admeto, Riccardo I (both 1727); Siroe, Tolomeo (both 1728); Lotario (1729); Partenope (1729–30, rev. 1730, 1736); Poro (1731); Ezio, Sosarme (both 1732); Orlando (1733); Arianna (1734); Ariodante, Alcina (both 1735); Atalanta (1736); Arminio, Giustino, Berenice (all 1737); Faramondo, Serse (both 1738); Imeneo (1738–40); Deidamia (1740).ORCH.: Water Music (c.1717); Music for Royal Fireworks (1749).DRAMATIC ORATORIOS: Rome: La Resurrezione, Trionfo del Tempo (1708); Naples: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo (1709); Hamburg: Der für die Sünde der Welt gemartete und sterbende Jesus (Brockes Passion) (?1716); London: Haman and Mordecai (masque 1720, later rev. as Esther in 1732); Acis and Galatea (1718; rev. 1732 incorporating part of 1708 cantata on same subject, and 1743); Deborah (1733); Athalia (1733); Alexander's Feast (1736); Israel in Egypt (1738); Saul, Ode for St Cecilia's Day (1739); L'Allegro, il Pensieroso ed il Moderato (1740); Messiah (1741); Samson (1741–2); Joseph and his Brethren, Semele (1743); Belshazzar, Hercules (1744); Occasional Oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus (1746); Alexander Balus, Joshua (1747); Solomon, Susanna (1748); Theodora, Alceste (1749); Choice of Hercules (1750); Jephtha (1751); Triumph of Time and Truth (1757).CANTATAS AND CHAMBER DUETS: Handel comp. 100 of the former and 20 of the latter. Among the best known are Silete Venti, sop., instr. (1729); La terra è liberata (Apollo e Dafne), sop., bass, instr. (c.1708); and O numi eterni (La Lucrezia), sop., continuo (1709).CHURCH MUSIC: Gloria Patri (1707); Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate (1712–13); Dettingen Te Deum (1743); 11 Chandos Anthems (1717–18); 4 Coronation Anthems (1727: The King Shall Rejoice; Let thy hand be strengthened; My heart is inditing; Zadok the Priest); The Ways of Zion do Mourn, funeral anthem for Queen Caroline (1737).VOCAL: Birthday Ode for Queen Anne (1713); 9 German Arias (1729).INSTRUMENTAL AND CHAMBER MUSIC: 6 Concerti Grossi, str., ww., continuo, Op.3 (1734); 12 Concerti Grossi, str., optional wind, Op.6 (1739); 5 Concerti, orch. (1741); 6 organ concerti, Op.4 (1738); 6 organ concerti, Op.7 (1760); 6 organ concerti (1740); 15 chamber sonatas (fls., recorders), Op.1 (1724); 3 concerti a due cori; 2 ob. sonatas; 12 fl. sonatas; 6 trio sonatas; 9 trio sonatas, Op.2 (1722–33); 7 trio sonatas, Op.5 (1739); va. da gamba sonata; 8 suites de pièces, hpd. (1720); 8 suites de pièces (1733, these incl. the well-known Chaconne in G); 6 Fugues (1736). See also Harmonious Blacksmith.

Handel, George Frideric (1685–1759)

views updated Jun 11 2018


HANDEL, GEORGE FRIDERIC (16851759), German-born musician eventually hailed as "England's national composer." He was the first great composer who broke free of church and court patronage and earned a living directly from the public; England was perhaps the only country that could provide such support in his time.

Born Georg Friedrich Händel at Halle, Lower Saxony, on 23 February 1685, he was the son of a sixty-three-year-old barber-surgeon. His early talents persuaded his father to let him study music as well as law, and he took lessons from the local organist, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau (16631712). After a year as organist of the Calvinist Domkirche (cathedral), he traveled to Hamburg, where he gained his first experience of opera, playing violin and harpsichord under the distinguished composer Reinhardt Keiser (16731739) and later composing operas and concertos. He then traveled to the fountainhead of music, Italy, where he stayed for nearly four years (17061710), dividing his time between Florence, Rome, Venice, and Naples. There he composed and performed music in many forms, developing the extroverted, cosmopolitan manner that so clearly distinguishes him from his contemporary Johann Sebastian Bach (16851750).

In January 1710 he took up an appointment as Kapellmeister (director of music) at the court of George, elector of Hanover (soon to become George I of England). In that year he paid his first visit to London, where he was commissioned to write an opera, Rinaldo, for the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket.

In the spring of 1712 Handel left Hanover for England, which was to be his home for the rest of his life, despite frequent visits to the Continent. He rapidly became the most sought-after composer in London. Rinaldo had been an astonishing success, and was decisive in the establishment of Italian opera as the chief entertainment of the British aristocracy. His Te Deum, performed on 7 July 1713, to celebrate the Peace of Utrecht, at once displaced Henry Purcell's as the standard piece for royal and national celebrations. After a period as private musician to the earl of Carnarvon, later duke of Chandos (17171718), at Cannons, his recently built mansion at Edgware, Handel was engaged as the chief composer in a series of London opera schemes. The most brilliant was the Royal Academy of Music (17191727), which sponsored several of his greatest operas, including Giulio Cesare (1724) and Rodelinda (1725). He enjoyed the strong support of King George II and Queen Caroline, but became a political pawn in the running feud between the king's Whig administration and the rival faction surrounding Frederick, Prince of Wales. He continued to produce operas until 1741, composing forty-two in all, but with fitful success.

Looking for a more stable source of support, Handel chanced on the oratorio. A pirated version of his Esther, written for Cannons in 1718, was mounted at a London tavern in 1733. Always a keen businessman, Handel competed, putting on a rival performance at the opera house with additional music. The bishop of London would not allow acting or costumes to represent a sacred subject, but Esther was still conceived as a drama, and was sung on stage against a scenic backdrop. It allowed plenty of scope for Handel's dramatic genius, as expressed in the operatic forms of recitative and aria. The public liked the use of the English language, the biblical stories familiar to all, and the choruses in the English ceremonial style they knew and loved.

Handel developed this formula in such masterpieces as Saul (1739), Samson (1744), Solomon (1748), and Jephtha (1751). He varied it by choosing mythological subjects in Semele (1744) and Hercules (1745), and, on the other hand, by using librettos compiled directly from the Bible in Israel in Egypt (1738) and Messiah (1742). In his later performances of Messiah at the Foundling Hospital chapel he took the first step that moved his oratorios away from the theater toward the church. The gigantic Handel Commemorations at Westminster Abbey (17841791) presented his works as monuments of the religious sublime, playing down the subtle interplay of human character that had always been an important inspiration of his greatest dramatic music.

Handel's ceremonial music epitomizes the grandeur and brilliance of the baroque. The Royal Fireworks Music and Water Music have proved to be the most durable occasional music ever written. He also contributed fine orchestral concertos, chamber works, keyboard music, and organ voluntaries, and was responsible for a new form, the organ concerto, originally played between the acts of his oratorios.

See also Music ; Opera .


Dean, Winton. Handel's Dramatic Masques and Oratorios. London, 1959.

Lang, Paul Henry. George Frideric Handel. New York, 1966.

Smith, Ruth. Handel's Oratorios and Eighteenth-Century Thought. Cambridge, U.K., 1995.

Nicholas Temperley

Handel, George Frideric

views updated May 11 2018


Baroque composer noted for his oratorios (German form: Georg Friedrich Händel); b. Halle, Germany, Feb. 23, 1685; d. London, April 14, 1759. He was educated at Halle and originally for the law, but became organist at the Domkirche there (170203). After a period in Hamburg, working mostly for the opera (170306), and at various towns in Italy (170610), he was invited to

London to compose operas (171011). In 1712 he returned to England, where he was naturalized in 1727 and remained till his death, apart from a few visits to the Continent. He held appointments at court (having been Kapellmeister to George I when he was still elector of Hanover) and for a time under private patrons, but was chiefly engaged in the production of Italian operas (171217, 172041) and English oratorios (173259) in London. He gave one season (174142) in Dublin, where the first performances of Messiah took place. Handel was primarily a dramatic composer, as his 25 oratorios (written for the theater, not the church) and 100 Italian cantatas demonstrate as clearly as his 40 operas. His church music, though marked by spaciousness and a sense of occasion, is relatively unimportant. He was brought up and died a Lutheran, but composed for the rites of each country in which he lived: for Lutheran Germany two settings of the Passion story; for Catholic Italy a group of Latin psalms and motets (it has been suggested by J. S. Hall that they formed a set of Vespers for the Carmelite church of Santa Maria di Monte Santo in Rome); for the Anglican Church 25 anthems with English words. Many of these were for special occasions such as the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the coronation of George II (1727). One or more of his four coronation anthems have been sung at every British coronation since.

The operas, long forgotten on account of their obsolete convention, have recently been revived with considerable success. The oratorios won Handel a great but illfounded reputation as a sacred composer, since his music reflected an unmystical quality. Two, Israel in Egypt and Messiah (the only one given in a sacred building during his life), are settings of Biblical words. The majority, based on Old Testament or Apocryphal stories, scarcely differ in spirit or design from similar works (Semele, Hercules ) in the tradition of Greek tragedy. This tradition he inherited through racine, whose plays formed the basis of his first English oratorio (Esther ) and first masterpiece in the form (Athalia ). Handel used the chorus in the Greek manner, particularly to draw out the action's moral; this, together with the splendor and variety of the choral counterpoint, gives the oratorios an extra dimension not possible within current operatic conventions. Nevertheless, Esther was written with stage action in mind and was so performed. Only a ban by the bishop of London (1732) prevented its transference thus to the opera house. This initiated the tradition of performance in the theater without action, eventually confined to Lent. Even Messiah, as the compiler of the text said, was an "entertainment," designed to recall the audience to the limitations and duties of mortality. Handel's spirit speaks clearly through his art; his sympathy embraces the entire human race.

Bibliography: g. f. handel, Hallische Händel-Ausgabe, ed. m. schneider and r. steglich (Kassel 1955), 4 ser. in 12 v. pub. to date; The Sacred Oratorios, 2 v. (London 1799). r. a. streatfeild, Handel (2d ed. New York 1964). w. dean, Handel's Dramatic Oratorios and Masques (New York 1959). g. e. h. abraham, Handel: A Symposium (New York 1954), broad, inclusive study. f. chrysander, G. F. Händel, 3 v. (Leipzig 185867). o. e. deutsch, Handel: A Documentary Biography (New York 1955). j. mÜller-blattau and w. schmieder, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 5:122986. j.s. hall, "Handel among the Carmelites," Dublin Review 233 (195960) 121131. s. goddard, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 4:3759. j. m. coopersmith, I. An Investigation of Georg Friedrich Händel's Orchestral Style. II. A Thematic Index of the Complete Works of Georg Friedrich Händel (Doctoral diss. unpub. Harvard 1932). p.m. young, The Choral Tradition (New York 1962). Georg Friedrich Händels Werke, ed. f. chrysander, 96 v. (Leipzig 185894, 1902). m. channon, "Handel's Early Performances of Judas Maccabaeus: Some New Evidence and Interpretations," Music and Letters 77 (1996) 499526. g. cummings, "Handel's Compositional Methods in His London Operas of the 1730s, and the Unusual Case of Poro, Rè dell'Indie (1731)," Music and Letters 79 (1998) 346367. r. g. king, "Classical History and Handel's Alessandro, " Music and Letters 77 (1996) 3463. s. c. larue, Handel and His Singers: The Creation of the Royal Academy Operas, 17201728 (Oxford 1995). h. j. marx, "Ein Beitrag Händels zur Accademia Ottoboniana in Rom," Hamburger Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft 1 (1975) 6986. k. nott, "'Heroick Vertue': Handel and Morell's Jephtha in the Light of Eighteenth-Century Biblical Commentary and Other Sources," Music and Letters 77 (1996) 194208. j. a. sadie, "Handel: In Pursuit of the Viol," Chelys 14 (1985) 324. j. e. sawyer, "Irony and Borrowing in Handel's Agrippina, " Music and Letters 80 (1999) 531559. r. smith, Handel's Oratorios and Eighteenth-Century Thought (Cambridge, Eng. 1995).

[w. dean]

Handel, George Frideric

views updated Jun 11 2018

George Frideric Handel

Born: February 23, 1685
Halle, Germany
Died: April 14, 1759
London, England

German-born English composer and organist

The dramatic English oratorios (lengthy choral works of a religious nature) of the German-born English composer (writer of music) and organist George Frideric Handel were the high point of the entire baroque (seventeenth-century ornate period) oratorio tradition. His Italian operas show a nobility of style and wealth of dramatic insight.

The young musician

George Frideric Handel was born on February 23, 1685, to Georg and Dorothea Händel in Halle, Germany. To study music he had to overcome his father's objections, and at the same time follow his father's insistence that he study law. But even before Handel had finished his law courses, he was devoted to pursuing a musical career. Although his father would not even allow him to have a musical instrument of his own, he managed to find ways to practice secretly. At about the age of seven he performed at the keyboard before the duke and his court at Weissenfels, Germany. As a result he became the pupil of Friedrich Wilhelm Zacchow, a composer and organist. Zacchow taught him composition as well as the organ, the violin, and the oboe, and by 1695 Handel was composing for these and other instruments. From 1696 until 1701 Handel composed many works. Unfortunately, the church cantatas (music that is written for one or more singers) and all but a few pieces of chamber music (music that is meant to be performed in a small space) that he composed at the time have disappeared.

Contact with German composer Georg Philipp Telemann, and a meeting shortly afterward with the composer Agostino Steffani, spurred Handel's operatic ambitions. In 1703 he resigned his post as organist at the Halle Domkirche and left the university, moving to Hamburg, where he joined the Goosemarket Theater as a violinist. But it was Handel's exceptional skill at the keyboard that brought him employment in the performance of operas.

First operas

Handel began his own operatic career with Almira (1704), which ran for some twenty performancesa very successful run. After several more successes, he sought richer operatic experience and left for Italy in 1706. He visited Florence, Venice, Rome, and Naples during the next three seasons, meeting almost all of the notable Italian musicians. His Italian journey resulted in two fine operas, Rodrigo (1707) and Agrippina (1709), several dramatic chamber works, and equally dramatic sacred compositions.

During a second visit to Venice, Handel met several persons interested in England who no doubt influenced his decision to try his luck as a freelance musician in London. A meeting with the manager of the King's Theatre furnished Handel with a chance to compose an opera. Within two weeks he produced the opera Rinaldo, which marked the high point of the London season in 1710 and 1711. Handel's course was set for the rest of his life.

Settling in England

As London became Handel's permanent home, he proceeded to compose a large amount of music for harpsichord, chamber ensembles, and orchestra, as well as various works for royal occasions. Handel's compositions so impressed England's Queen Anne (16651714) that she awarded him an annual salary of two hundred pounds. After Anne's death, George I (16601727) became king of England. In 1715 Handel provided music for a royal pleasure cruise for the King, his mistresses, and several barge-loads of courtiers (members of the royal court)the famous Water Music. In 1719 Handel accepted an invitation to join forces with the newly founded Royal Academy of Music. Handel's operas were numerous and well-received, but despite their success the academy did not prosper.

In 1726 Handel became a citizen of England and was appointed composer of music to the Chapel Royal. The season of 1727 saw the production of Handel's Alessandro. This marked the beginning of an intense rivalry between Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni, two prima donnas (leading female opera singers) whose hostility greatly harmed the cause of Italian opera in London. Other factors no doubt lent weight to the growing public disappointment, but this single event seemed to have caused opposition to Italian opera in London and introduced a succession of developments that led to its fall.

Apparently undismayed, Handel immediately formed the New Royal Academy of Music in partnership with a Swiss entrepreneur. After a whirlwind trip to Germany to audition new singers and to visit his mother, now blind and alone, Handel returned to London in time to open the new season. Thereafter his operas flowed forth on the average of two per year. In spite of the quality of these operas, Italian opera grew ever less popular in London. In April 1737 Handel suffered a stroke. He recuperated during the summer at Aix-la-Chapelle, returning to London in time to start the next season. Finally, with the miserable failure of Imeneo (1740) and Deidamia (1741), he at last gave up and wrote no more new operas.

The oratorios

Handel's ultimate failure with operas was offset by ever-increasing success with his oratorios. These provided a new vehicle, the possibilities of which he had begun to explore and experiment with nearly a decade earlier. Indeed these established a new vogue (fashion), in which Handel fared better with London audiences than he ever had with Italian opera. As if to test a possible market for dramatic compositions in English, Handel revived past operas with revisions to the oratorio style, meeting with much success. Producing oratorios was a profitable business. As a direct consequence, the oratorio became a regular feature of each season, with Handel leading the field, as he had done previously with Italian opera.

It was obvious that the new form was on its way to becoming an established feature of English concert life. During the Lenten (the period of religious fasting for Christians) season in 1735, Handel gave no less than fourteen concerts, consisting mainly of oratorios.

Handel's personal health, however, continued to falter. In 1751 total blindness set in. From that time on he was limited to revising earlier works with outside assistance, and to improvising on organ and harpsichord in public performances. Handel's accomplishment during the last creative decade of his life seems almost miraculous when the Italian cantatas, several concertos, and a variety of other works are added to his twenty major works. He died in London on April 14, 1759.

Handel's creative genius

Surveying Handel's entire creative life, one gains a sense of spontaneous (instinctive) and incredibly abundant creative flow. This is confirmed by the marvelous collections of his work preserved at the Fitzwilliam and British museums in England, which reveal not only the enormous bulk of his creative achievement but also something of his uncompromising critical judgment. There is scarcely a page without deletions; frequently, he struck out whole passages. He obviously knew the art of heavy pruning, and his works profited greatly from it.

Handel's propensity to "write like the very devil" proved invaluable, in view of the demands imposed upon his time and energies in operatic composition throughout most of his career. Time after time he found it necessary to meet crises without much time for creative gestation (generation). Handel was at heart a dramatic composer for whom setting the scene and atmosphere and depiction of character thrust all other considerations into the background.

For More Information

Anderson, M. T. Handel, Who Knew What He Liked. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2001.

Keates, Jonathan. Handel, The Man and His Music. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.

Lang, Paul Henry. George Frideric Handel. New York: W. W. Norton, 1966. Reprint, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1996.

Handel, George Frideric

views updated May 29 2018

George Frideric Handel



From Halle to Italy.

One of England's greatest composers, George Frideric Handel was German by birth and upbringing. Born in Halle in the German territory of Saxony, he studied law as well as music. After a year as an organist at the Calvinist cathedral church, Handel left Halle for Hamburg with its opera house and greater possibilities. In Hamburg he played in the orchestra and wrote his first opera, Almira, in 1705. Here Handel already showed the mix of national styles he would continue to use in his later writings. The next year he traveled to Italy. Throughout the eighteenth century and into the next, northern European composers felt the need to spend time in Italy to study current Italian musical trends and to establish their reputations. Handel was no exception, and his efforts proved successful. He spent time in a number of cities, including Florence, Rome, Naples, and Venice. In Rome, a center especially of religious choral music, he wrote a number of motets, cantatas, and an oratorio. In Venice, his opera Agrippina was a great success. Handel met and befriended many of the Italian composers of his generation.

English Career.

When he returned north, he worked for a while as chapel master to the elector of Hanover, who was next in line to succeed to the English throne. The court granted him leaves of absence so that he could accept invitations to London. There he produced another opera, Rinaldo, again to great acclaim, and eventually Queen Anne awarded him an annual stipend. Upon her death in 1714 the crown passed to the elector of Hanover, who was crowned as George I. Except for a few visits to continental Europe, Handel spent the rest of his career in England. In 1727 he became a British citizen. Handel's long English career highlights many of the trends in the country's musical scene during those years. At times he worked directly for the king; he wrote the suites known as the Water Music, for example, for a royal procession by barge along the Thames River in the summer of 1717, a procession intended to give the new and foreign king greater visibility among his subjects. By 1719 he was working for a new private company called the Royal Academy of Music, formed to produce Italian-style opera in London, and he wrote a number of operas for them. The company survived ten years before having financial trouble, at which time Handel himself went into partnership with a colleague to carry on the project. A rival house competed with him, sometimes producing Handel's own operas. These professional rivalries, plus the problems of attracting the London public to performances of Italian operas when they could not understand the language of the libretto, limited the possibilities for Italian opera in England. Nonetheless, Handel continued to write successful operas even after his production ventures failed.


One solution to Handel's problems in popularizing Italian opera in England came in the form of the oratorio, a musical genre that Handel made distinctly his own. Handel, who had studied and written oratorios in Rome, revised an earlier composition into the oratorio Esther in 1732. With his oratorio Saul, Handel overcame the language problems of Italian-style opera by using an English text, and found a solid audience that he could continue to develop. Handel helped build up a tradition of performing oratorios, with their Biblical subjects, during the penitential season of Lent. He also played organ concertos at these performances. Saul was followed by Israel in Egypt. In answer to a request for a new work for a charity performance in Dublin for Easter in 1742, Handel wrote his oratorio Messiah, a work that was a resounding success from its first performances. Its Dublin debut was soon followed by London performances the following year, in which the work excited universal acclaim. Handel followed this commercial success with more oratorios, as well as his famous Music for the Royal Fireworks, written in 1748.

A Mix of Styles.

Although English was only an adopted language to Handel, his vocal compositions captured English words and cadences so naturally that they can be seen to embody the Baroque era's preoccupation with textual expression as one of music's greatest goals. His writing for chorus is especially memorable, often alternating between homophonic sections and polyphony, and takes advantage of the natural ranges and strengths of vocal parts. Yet his instrumental music is also impressive. The Italian style dominates in most of his writings, but he made use of other regional and national styles as well. The French overture form, first developed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, and the precision and restraint of French court music generally figured prominently in many of Handel's works. Like many of his contemporaries, Handel was known for his ability to compose music quickly. The listening public wanted new works for major occasions, and Handel obliged, even if it meant borrowing heavily from earlier works. He was known for incorporating musical ideas from the works of others, reworking them into parts of his own compositions. Contemporaries viewed this practice more the way film directors do now, as a sort of "homage" to the other composer, rather than as a type of plagiarism.

Later Life and Reputation.

Late in life, Handel's health began to fail. He had already suffered several strokes, but was able to recover and return to work. By the 1750s, however, his eyesight also began to fail. He continued to compose via dictation and to perform extemporaneously and from memory. By the time of his death, he had become a great English institution, and was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey with an imposing funeral. In 1784 Handel was honored with a commemorative festival by the Concert of Antient Music, an event that was attended by the royal family. This festival helped to solidify his important role in England's musical life, and inspired a fashion for works from earlier periods. Handel's posthumous reputation and its celebration in England were key features in the development of the notion of a European classical tradition of great music that deserved to be performed long after it was written.


Donald Burrows, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Handel (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Winton Dean, The New Grove Handel (London: Macmillan, 1982).

Christopher Hogwood, Handel (London: Thames and Hudson, 1984).

Handel, George Frideric

views updated May 14 2018

Handel, George Frideric (1685–1759). German-born composer who took English nationality. Initially cathedral organist in his native Halle, Handel played violin and harpsichord at the Hamburg opera-house, where his first two operas were produced in 1705. In 1706–10 he travelled around Italy, assimilating the latest musical styles, meeting leading composers, and writing some fine church music, including ‘Dixit Dominus’ (1707), over 100 Italian cantatas, two oratorios, and two operas.

In 1710 Handel was appointed Kapellmeister to the elector of Hanover (later George I of England), although within a few months he was in London. Here the colourful arias and magnificent stage effects of his opera Rinaldo (1711) created a sensation, and by 1712 he had settled permanently in England, acting 1717–19 as resident composer to the future duke of Chandos at Cannons (near Edgware). Handel's first love was the theatre, and the Royal Academy of Music (1720–8), formed to promote Italian opera, commissioned several masterpieces including Giulio Cesare and Tamerlano (1724).

Although Handel continued composing operas until 1741, increasing financial pressures and poor audiences encouraged him to turn to a new dramatic medium, the English oratorio. Esther (1732) initiated a series of oratorios, operatic in concept and performed in theatres but using English texts and singers and incorporating frequent choruses. The oratorio gradually displaced opera in the public's interest, forming the basis after Handel's death for a lasting English choral tradition centring especially on Messiah (1742).

Handel wrote in every contemporary genre, also creating the organ concerto to display his own virtuosity in the intervals of oratorio performances and publishing two fine sets of concerti grossi. His music, drawing elements from various national styles, was enormously influential, both in England and abroad; ‘Zadok the Priest’, for example, has been sung at every English coronation since 1727. Nevertheless, some of his best music, especially for the stage, is still shamefully neglected.

Eric Cross

Handel, George Frideric

views updated May 18 2018

Handel, George Frideric (1685–1759) English composer, b. Germany. In 1712, after some success as an operatic composer in Italy, he moved to England. He wrote (c.1717) the Water Music to serenade George I's procession down the River Thames. In 1720, he became the first director of the Royal Academy of Music, London. From 1729 to 1734, he wrote a series of operas for the King's Theatre, London, including Orlando (1733). From 1739, Handel concentrated on creating a new form, the oratorio, producing such masterpieces as Saul (1739), Messiah (1742) and Judas Maccabaeus (1747). In 1749, he composed Music for the Royal Fireworks.


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George Frideric Handel

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