orig. Georg Friedrich Händel
George Frideric Handel, detail of an oil painting after Thomas Hudson, 1756; in the National elipsis
(born Feb. 23, 1685, Halle, Brandenburg—died April 14, 1759, London, Eng.) German-born British composer. Born to a barber-surgeon in Halle, he showed a marked gift for music and studied organ, violin, and composition. He moved to Hamburg in 1703 and played in the opera orchestra under Reinhard Keiser (1674–1739), and his first opera was produced there in 1705. A Medici prince invited him to Florence; there and in Rome, patronized by cardinals and nobility, he wrote oratorios, cantatas, and more operas. Hired as kapellmeister by the elector at Hannover (1710), he asked permission to visit London before assuming his responsibilities. There his opera Rinaldo
(1711) immediately made his name; forsaking Hannover, he remained in England for the rest of his life. In 1714 the German elector was made George I
of England; any annoyance at Handel's defection dissipated, and the king became one of his patrons. Handel was appointed musical director of the new Royal Academy of Music, an opera house that thrived until the public taste shifted away from Italian opera. In 1732 he revised his oratorio Esther
for a public performance, the first public oratorio performance in England. Its success was followed by many more English-language oratorios, including his great Messiah
(1741); by this time he had made oratorio and large-scale choral works the most popular musical forms in England. He was renowned as virtually the greatest organist and harpsichordist in the world. Handel wrote about 45 Italian operas, including Giulio Cesare
(1733), and Alcina
(1735). His oratorios include Israel in Egypt
(1739), and Jephtha
(1752). His church music includes the Chandos Anthems
(1718) and Coronation Anthems
(1727). Though the bulk of his music was vocal, he composed a number of great orchestral works, such as the famous Water Music
(1717) and Royal Fireworks Music
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.