Handel, Georg Friedrich

Handel, Georg Friedrich one of the greatest of musical composers and musicians, was born at Halle, in the Prussian province of Saxony, Feb. 24, 1684. He manifested in early youth an extraordinary passion for music, and at the age of seven was a good player on the piano and the organ. At the age of nine he began to compose for the Church service, and continued doing so every week until he was thirteen. In 1698 he was sent to Berlin, where he enjoyed the instruction of Attilio. An offer by the elector of Brandenburg was declined by his father. On the death of the latter in 1703, he went to Hamburg, where he played a violin in the orchestra of the opera, and composed his first opera, Allnira. He next visited Italy, where he wrote operas for Florence, Venice, and Rome. On his return from Rome he was, in 1709, appointed chapel-master by the elector of Hanover. In 1710 he paid a short visit to England, and in 1712 he took up his permanent abode in that country. He composed, in honor of the peace of Utrecht, his celebrated Te Deum and Jubilate, and numerous operas. A Royal Academy was established (1720) and placed under his management, but his violent temper involved him in many troubles; an opposition house was started, and soon both failed, with a loss to Haindel of £10,000. Soon after he quitted the stage altogether, in order to devote himself wholly to the composition of oratorios. His oratorio Esther had appeared as early as 1720; in 1732 it was produced at the Haymarket Theatre ten nights in succession. In 1733 he produced at Oxford the oratorio Athalia; in 1736, Alexander's Feast; in 1738, Israel in Egypt and L'allegro ed ilpenseroso. On the 12th of April, 1741, the Messiah, the most sublime of his compositions, was produced for the first time in London, where it met, however, with no favor; while in Dublin, on the other hand, it was received with the greatest applause. Handel remained in Dublin for nine months, and met there with a generous support. On his return to London he composed his Samson, and for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital again produced the Messiah, which now secured to him a general admiration; and, being repeated annually, brought to the Foundling Hospital, from 1749 to 1777, £10,300. In 1751 Handel became blind, but he still continued to compose and to play on the piano. He died, as he wished, on Good Friday, April 13, 1759, "in hopes," he said, "of meeting his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his resurrection." Among his works, which are in the queen's library, are 50 operas-8 German, 26 Italian, 16 English; 20 oratorios, a great quantity of Church music, cantatas, songs, and instrumental pieces. He was a wonderful musician, and his compositions are often full of grandeur and sublimity. His operas are seldom performed, but his oratorios hold the same place in music that in the English drama is accorded to the plays of Shakespeare; and the Handel festivals, lasting several days, in which they are performed by thousands of singers and musicians, are the grandest musical exhibitions of our times. See V. Scholcher, The Life of Handel (London, 1857); Chrysander, G. F. Handel (Lpz. 1858); Gervinus, Handel und Shakespeare (Lpz. 1868); Contemporary Review, April, 1869, p. 503. (A. J. S.)

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