Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy birthday, George Frideric Handel!

George Frideric Handel, one of the world's greatest composers, was born on 23 February 1685. (The same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarletti.) Unlike his contemporaries,  Handel was born into a family that had no interest in music. After receiving musical training in Halle, Hamburg, and Italy, he settled in London in 1712 and later became a naturalized British subject (1727).

Between 1719 and 1734, Handel started three Italian opera companies---the Royal Academy of Music, the King's Theatre, and the Opera at Covent Garden---but the British nobility came to hear the vocal acrobatics of the soloists more than the music. In 1736, he changed direction, musically, and concentrated on English choral works.

Most known for his Messiah, he was also a gifted composer of organ concerti and chamber music, such as his Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks.

From 1723 until his death, Handel lived at 25 Brook Street, now the Handel House Museum.

Handel's compositions include 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 duets, trios, and cantatas,  numerous arias, chamber music, many ecumenical pieces, and 16 organ concerti.

In addition to composing and performing music, Handel was a governor of London's Foundling Hospital, to which he bequeathed a copy of Messiah.

Handel died on 14 April 1759, a respected and wealthy man. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Here's a link to one of my favorite of Handel's shorter pieces: "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from his oratorio Solomon.

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