George Frederick Handel (1685 1759) was a German born, English composer. Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach were the last of the Baroque Masters. During his lifetime, Handel was known mainly as an opera composer and producer, but his fame today came mainly on his English oratories, especially The Messiah (1742). His music has strength and simplicity. Handels operas are not often heard, but Largo, an aria from Serse, and other selections are sometimes played in concerts.
Handel was born in Halle and attended the University of Halle as a student of law due to his fathers wishes. During his education there his interest in music awakened and this was aided by the three years of lessons given to him by an organ player Wilhelm Zachow. In 1697 Handels father died, and no longer being subject to his wishes, Handel left Halle and went to Hamburg as a violin player in an orchestra. This spoiled his chances of becoming a lawyer but improved his chances of success as an artist. Young Handel became a skilled organist and harpsichordist, and after playing with an opera company in Hamburg went to Italy in 1706 to study opera.
In 1710 Handel became court music director for the elector of Hanover. He immediately afterwards took a leave of absence and visited London for six months. He returned to London in 1712. His patron was crowned King of England in 1714 and Handel remained, becoming a British subject in 1726. For more than 15 years Handel composed and produced Italian opera in London. Following the success of The Beggars Opera (1728), by Gay and Pepusch, Italian opera lost favor and Handel turn to oratorios. George Frederick Handel eventually became blind, much like J. S. Bach, and died in 1759.
George Frederick HandelEncyclopedia Britannica Inc. The NewEncyclopedia Britannica. Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1991.
Anonymous epitaph, printed in a newspaper on 21 April 1759