About Handel

            Georg Friedrich Handel was born in Halle in 1685. He was born fifty miles away from Bach in the same year. His father did not want him to study music. In fact, he wanted his son to study civil law, which he did. When he was young, Handel was a talented musician who played the harpsichord and the organ. During a trip to visit relatives, Handel showed his father his gift in music by playing the organ and, convinced him to take music lessons. In 1698, Handel played for Frederik I of Prussia.

Handel’s first job was a violinist which paid him very little. During this time, he wrote his first opera, “Almira”. In 1706, Handel traveled to Italy. He was invited by Ferdinando de’ Medici to Florence. During his time in Italy, he met and collaborated with many other composers including Antonio Salvi and great violinist and composer Arcangelo Corelli. Handel later moved to Rome to work and composed sacred music because Opera was banned in the Papal States at the time. Handel’s opera “Agrippina” was written in Florence, Italy and it was reported to be so successful, it ran for twenty seven days, with success, and the audience would be awestruck every time.

Sometime after returning to Germany, Handel became Kapellmeister for George, Elector of Hanover. George would later become George I of England. Handel was allowed to move to England. He settled permanently in 1710. There he would write for the Queen’s Theatre. Handel would become the music director of The Royal-Academy of Music in 1719. During this time, Handel moved into his permanent home, which he rented for the rest of his life, on 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London. Now it is the “Handel House Museum”. There Handel would practice, sell tickets, and work on his music.

Later in his life, Handel arranged a performance of “The Messiah” to benefit the “Foundling Hospital”. These performances were continued annually. Handel was a very charitable man and because of this arrangement, he was made one of the governors of the hospital. In 1751, Handel received a surgery for cataract, by the same surgeon who attempted to cure Bach's eye disease. This made his eyesight even worse. By the end of his life, he was completely blind. Handel died in 1759.

Compiled from Internet sources by Matthew Kaganovich

Handel was known for his cheerful and charitable disposition even after he became completely blind. He was also well aware of his musical significance and valued himself pretty high. The fact he was employed by the British crown, one of the most powerful monarchies in the world, allowed his creativity to blossom without obstructions common in the lives of many Baroque musicians. 

He probably was loved by general public, aristocracy and many firends. One evidence of this is a good number of anecdotes and quotes associated with Handel. Here is a couple:

One night in Dublin (1742), the violinist Matthew Dubourg (1703-67), having a solo part wandered through complex modulations in an improvised cadenza and eventually returned to the tonic. Handel is said to have cried out loud enough to be heard in the most remote parts of the theater,

"You are welcome home, Mr. Dubourg."

Source: Charles Burney, An Account of the Musical Performances...in Commemoration of Handel (1785)

            A young singer in the choir of Worcester came to London with a recommendation to Mr. Handel. Handel asked him to sing; he did so.

            Handel said:

            "This is the way you praise God at Worcester?"

            "Yes", he answered.

            "God is very good", replied Handel, "and will no doubt hear your praises at Worcester, but no man will hear them at London."

Source: "The beginnings of provincial concert life" by Michael Tilmouth, in the book 'Music in Eighteenth-Century England', ed. Christopher Hogwood & Richard Luckett, Cambridge University Press, 1983.