George Frideric Handel
What an extraordinary individual of manifold talents! In deep respect, Beethoven later described him as the greatest composer of all: George Frideric Handel. The gifted son of a surgeon from the Saxonian province quickly caught the attention of royalty. Having polished his skills at the Hamburg Opera House, he takes Italy by storm. He triumphs in London with his operas, composes for kings, writes for the most famous singers of his time, experiences failure, then ‘reinvents’ himself. The audience, ecstatic about his new oratorios, celebrates him as a national hero and erects a monument for him even during his lifetime.
But his music is written for the entire world. Music that still, more than 250 years after the composer’s death, has the power to move listeners to tears, to sense desperation and also joy, pain, sublimity, humility, hope, love. Virtuosic arias and intimate chamber music, fireworks and Halleluja. Exciting, comforting. Splendid, unpretentious.
Music for eternity. Handel.
Selected biographical details:
- Born on February 23rd, 1685, in Halle (Saale)
- 1702: Matriculation at the ‘Ratsweege’ university in Halle, degree studies in law;
on March 13th Handel takes up position of organist at the Halle Domkirche for a trial year
- 1703: Handel moves to Hamburg; there he plays in the opera house orchestra, initially violin, later harpsichord
- 1705: on January 8th Handel’s first opera Almira receives its first performance in Hamburg; the second opera follows on February 25th, Die durch Blut und Mord erlangte Liebe, oder: Nero
- 1706: journey to Italy (Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice) that lasts until 1710; there, he stages the operas Rodrigo (November 1707 in Florence) and Agrippina (December 1709 in Venice); he also composes numerous choral and solo cantatas
- 1710: on June 4th Handel becomes Kapellmeister in Hanover; at the end of the same year he travels to London for the first time
- 1711: on February 24th Handel celebrates a resounding success in England with the opera Rinaldo
- 1712: Handel makes London his permanent place of residence
- 1714: Coronation of Hanoverian Kurfürst as George I, King of Great Britain and Ireland, for whom Handel later composes the Water Music
- 1719: Handel becomes Musical Director of the Royal Academy of Music
- 1727: Coronation of George II; Handel composes the Coronation Anthems
- 1729: following the termination of the Academy of opera, Handel re-establishes it with Jacob Heidegger; oratorios including Deborah are given their first performances
- 1742: Handel stays in Dublin, performing there his oratorio Messiah in aid of charities such as one for imprisoned debtors and hospitals for the poor
- From 1743 to 1752 uninterrupted series of one or two new oratorios per season
- 1749: first performance of the Fireworks Music in London’s Green Park
- 1751: first signs of the onset of blindness; from May 1752 almost no sight remains
- 1759: Handel is no longer able to take the waters in Bath, as had been planned for April
- Handel dies on April 14th, 1759, at the age of 74