George Friedrich Handel was one of the most accomplished Baroque composers inhis time. Born in Halle, Germany in 1685, he was the son of a wealthy barber whowanted his son to become a lawyer. However, he displayed such musical aptitudewith the harpsichord, organ, oboe, counterpoint and fugue, he became anassistant with Friedrich Zachav, organist of the cathedral of Halle. However,Handel entered the University of Halle, but quickly withdrew, and left for theUniversity of Hamburg, to study music. In 1706, Handel journeyed to Italy tofurther enhance his music.
While there, he was greatly influenced by AlessandroScarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli. Then in 1710, Handel was appointed”Kapellmeister,” or Musical Director, to the Elector of Hanover, andreceived a commission to write an opera for London. Italian opera was all therage in London, and Handels soon became a quick success. However, Handelgreatly longed for being in England, and returned in 1712. London provided agenerous audience for Handel, and from 1712 to 1741 he produced thirty-sixoperas. In 1713, Te Deum and a Jubilate was performed by Handel at St.
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PaulsCathedral, London, to celebrate the Peace of Utrecht. Queen Anne also grantedHandel a handsome lifetime pension of two hundred pounds per year. IncludingWater Music, for George I, which was first performed in 1715 on the Thames atLondon. While most of Handels operas were based on either historical,mythological, or legendary subjects, Serse, was one of his rare endeavors intocomedy. Handels operas were all sung in Italian, and adhere to the musicalconventions of the day. There is little use of choruses or large ensembles,since one of the main objectives of this genre, called opera seria, is thedemonstration of vocal ability by individual singers. Also, for 18th centuryaudiences, the main attraction in Handels operas lay in the incredible featsof the castrati, male singers whose soprano voices had been surgicallypreserved from childhood. These artists combined the soprano voices of women andthe lung power of men, producing singers whose vocal feats became legendary.
InEngland, Handel tried to start opera companies on a number of occasions, butthese attempts to become a music executive failed miserably. On account thegradual decline in popularity of Italian opera in England, Handel turned towriting oratorios, which became the preferred taste. These works, sung inEnglish, take their texts from the Bible.
Handels most famous oratorio, hisbest-known work in any genre, is Messiah, written in 1742. In addition to operasand oratorios, he wrote passions, secular choral pieces, anthems, cantatas,chamber sonatas, harpsichord suites, concerti, and orchestral pieces. Beyondcomposition, Handel was the first the real businessman in the world of music. Hehad a hand in organizing opera companies, obtaining financial support, andfinding singers. He was also in constant demand at parties where he entertainedguests with his lusty personality and exceptional abilities the keyboard.
Of allcomposers, Handel was probably the most esteemed and appreciated in his owntime. He rose to a position of the highest eminence in the musical world. Hisoratorios were the toast of the country, and of the continent as well. Towardthe end of his life, Handel was plagued by ill health. From 1753, he was totallyblind, though this did not stop his activities altogether. He died in 1759, andwas buried with full state honors in Westminster Abbey.
Bibliography”Classics World Biography: George Frederich Handel.” 1997:Online.Internet. October 4 1998. Available WWW: http:://classicalmus.
com/composers/handel.htmlBrimhall, John. My Favorite Classics. Miami Beach, FL.: Chas. H. Hansen MusicCorp.
, 1969. “Handel, George Frideric.” The Concise ColumbiaEncyclopedia.