Composer. One of the most prolific, successful, and revered composers and musicians who is considered one of the greatest composers of the baroque period, who enjoyed both public favor and royal patronage in his lifetime. Handel was an independent and strong-willed individual, and although he was approached several times by royal patrons to become their court composer, he was hesitant to professionally "settle down" until he was offered a position commensurate with the status he felt he deserved. Throughout his life he wrote more than 150 instrumental compositions. The best known of these two orchestra suites Water Music (about 1717) and Fireworks Music (1749). His works, ranging from light-hearted show pieces through Italian operas and on to such mammoth religious works as " Messiah" were admired and respected by musicians and composers, well-received by the public and almost all were financially successful. Ha! ndel also composed many harpsichord suites, organ concertos, and sonatas for chamber groups. He also wrote a number of concerti grossi, compositions that feature a small group of soloists against the background of a string orchestra. It is perhaps a little strange that such a man as Handel could have been so successful during his lifetime yet neglected these days when only a few of his many scores are performed with a semblance of regularity. George Frederick Handel was born on Feb. 23, 1685, in Halle, Germany, growing up under the watchful eyes of his parents; while his mother nurtured his musical gifts and his father trying to dissuade him from pursuing a dubious occupation. He began taking music lessons at the age of 7. By the time he was 12, he was assistant organist at Halle Cathedral. At eighteen he was appointed organist at the Cathedral of Moritzburg. Handel the son of a barber-surgeon, received little family encourageme! nt in his early years. It was not until after his father's death that Handel was able to concentrate all his efforts on music rather than divide his time between his chosen life in music and his father's selection of law as a career for the young Handel. As a youth, he had a typical Lutheran education and studied law at the University of Halle for a year. After a year in Moritzburg, Handel moved to Hamburg, at that time a center of French, Italian, and German operatic styles in 1703. There his earliest activity as a composer began while as second violinist in the orchestra at the opera house. At age 19 he wrote such a major work as "The Passion According To St. John" and at 20 he wrote the opera "Almira." It is said that Handel's immediate success with almost every musical undertaking caused many to envy the young genius which caused him problems. Between 1706 and 1710, Handel worked in Italy, becoming one of the most popular co! mposers of Italian opera. This was the period in which he started turning out Italian operas and in which he turned to religious music. In 1710 he became the Kapellmeister in Hanover, where he served briefly. Handel moved to England in 1712 eventually becoming a permanent resident and a citizen of that country. Italian opera was quite still new to England when Handel arrived and it gained its greatest popularity among nobility during his early years there. His musical output became so impressive and popular that King George I hired Handel as music master for the royal family. From this point on Handel was truly at the peak of his career. He was idolized and was financially more than secure. In 1720 he worked at the King's Theatre, London, where he produced a stream of operas, and then developed a new form , the English oratorio, which proved to be highly popular. Nevertheless, his position later deteriorated and Handel lo! st his financial security and even his health after a stroke in 1737. But as he had done before Handel once again rose to fame and fortune. It was in the 1730's that he started turning out a series of oratorios including "Saul" (1739) and "Israel in Egypt" (1739). In 1741, he abandoned opera all together and dedicated himself to composing oratorios. In that same year Handel was invited to Dublin, Ireland by the Duke of Devonshire. There he wrote a new oratorio for the occasion, one of his most familiar works "The Messiah" (1742) which he wrote in just two weeks. From then on to 1751 Handel's musical pen put on score paper such works as "Samson," "Joshua," "Jephtha," and "Solomon." By 1753, the aging Handel experienced progressively debilitating cataracts and the ensuing operations restore his vision left him completely blind. Furthermore, Handel suffered bouts of anxiety and depression. On April 6, 17! 59, while directing a performance of "The Messiah" he was taken ill. A few days later on April 14 George Frederick Handel died in his London home. His funeral was attended by about 3,000 people with music being rendered by the choirs of Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Chapel Royal. Handel was, according to his wishes, buried in Westminster Abbey. Over his grave in Poet's Corner stands a statue of the great composer at work showing him working on "The Messiah" and the score is open at the passage "I know that my redeemer liveth." Despite Handel's adversity's, throughout his life he maintained a keen sense of humor and was well-known for his charitable disposition. In the many years which have passed since Handel's death, the world has come to the single conclusion that he was truly one of the world's most brilliant musicians and writers.
Bio by: Curtis Jackson