Georg Friedrich Haendel

Halle sul Saale, 1685 – London, 1759. He escaped his father’s ambition for him to become a man of the law (much as Tartini’s father who also had other ambitions for his son), young Händel (or, as he would sign his name, George Frideric Hendel in the English fashion) began to travel at a young age, leaving his native Saxony and following Frau Musika. These educational voyages or Bildungsreisen, took him first to Hamburg where he met (once, even in a duel) Johann Mattheson, the composer and musical theorist who introduced him to melodramma, then to Italy, the country of melodramma, where he took up residence from 1706 to 1710 and where he came into contact with the Gotha of music and European theatre (Domenico Scarlatti – and another duel, fortunately this time only on the cembalo and the organ; Arcangelo Corelli, Benedetto Marcello).

He debuted in Florence in 1706 with his first Italian opera Rodrigo ovvero Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria; two years later in Venice with Agrippina, he was greeted by the Italian public with the cry “Evviva il caro Sassone”. [Long live our dear Saxon] and in 1711 he moved to London where he founded the royal theatre of opera (the Royal Academy of Music) and came to know the nuances of worldly glory, unfortunate (political problems, rivalries, jealousy) and lunacies (a monument erected in his name by a patron, while he was living).

He died in the English capital at 74 years old. As destiny would have it, it was the same eye doctor who had operated on his famous contemporary Johann Sebastian Bach, also unsuccessfully, who operated on him taking away his sight and his will to live.

In addition to his huge operatic production (he composed more than 40 operas many of which are still famous today such as, Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Rinaldo, Serse), Händel is famous for his Oratorios – about thirty of them  – that according to some scholars constitute the summit of his art: the Messiah (which includes his famous Hallelujah), Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno, Israele in Egitto…

His repertory of instrumental music for orchestra and chamber groups: hymns and anthems, more than 300 cantatas, approximately 20 concertos (including those for organ), a group of sacred sonatas and secular suites harpsichord, etc.

His Concerti Grossi, op. 6, and the suites: Musica sull’acqua (Water Music of 1717) and Musica per i Fuochi d’artificio del 1749 (The Music for the Royal Fireworks) are all famous.

At the end of the baroque period, together with Bach, Händel stands tall and is among the greatest musicians of all times. He is able to be versatile, original, prolific (he wrote more than 600 compositions), mastering all forms of music of his period (and even inventing the English Oratorio), and at the same time endowing them with originality. As Romain Rolland quite correctly said: “tout ce qu’il touche, Händel le fait sien”.

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