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Handel's Life and Works
George Frideric Handel was born on February 23rd, 1685. He was born in Halle which is
in Germany. His father was 63 at the time of his birth. Handel's father did not want him
to study music. Instead he wanted him to become a lawyer but had to give in when he
saw how eager Handel was. Handel had lessons with F. W. Zachow, an organist, when
he was still at school. He learned to play the organ, piano and violin. Zachow also taught
Handel composition and harmony.
In 1703, when Handel was 18, Handel moved to Hamburg in Germany. He played the
violin in a local orchestra and then later on swapped to the harpsichord. Whilst living in
Hamburg he met and became friends with Johann Mattheson. He lived with him for a
bit in his parents' house.
Though Handel mainly wrote operas (usually in Italian although a few were in German), he also
composed sonatas, psalms, oratorios and cantatas. His later music styles were very different from his
earlier ones as he began to use more unpleasant tonal patterns.
After living in Hamburg, Handel went to Italy. He spent some time in Venice and Rome. He wasn't
able to compose many operas here because composing operas was actually forbidden in Rome
during the early 1700's. However he still picked up many Italian influences during this time which he
was then able to use in later operas that he wrote whilst living in Britain. Handel also wrote cannons
during this time which were sometimes used as part of an opera. These included Esther and Acis and
The famous `Water Party' was held on July 17th 1717. For this, Handel wrote his `Water Music'. It is
rumoured that the King liked this music so much that he ordered it to be performed three times, even
though each individual performance lasted for about an hour.
After Italy, Handel went now to Britain. When he was there he got together with some other
composers and they opened the Royal Academy. Here he worked with many famous singers.
However, the academy didn't make any profit and was forced to close in 1728.
Even after this bad news, Handel and the other composers borrowed the King's Theatre and opened
again in the autumn of 1729. Two of his operas failed quickly and after this Handel relied on revivals
of popular operas. Several of these proved to be successes as were some of his new operas.
However, eventually the theatre failed as well in 1737.
In the early 1740's, Handel composed the famous oratorio, Messiah. However, in its first London
performance it was labelled a failure. This is possibly because at this time many people were deeply
religious and could have considered this type of work to be blasphemous. It was only after he
performed it for free at a local hospital that its popularity began to rise.
In 1745 Handel became ill. However, he continued to compose throughout his illness and eventually
recovered from it. During this time he composed several more little-known oratorios and other
pieces. He also composed the famous `Royal Fireworks Music' during this time period. This was
actually first performed in France.
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Towards the end of the 1750's Handel started to become ill again. He tried to keep composing but
found it hard so just attended performances of operas and oratorios now. Finally, though, he was
unable to get out of bed. He died on Saturday 14th April 1759 at eight am. His final moments were at
his house on Brook Street. This house still stands today.…read more