Handel, George Frideric


George Frideric Handel was born in Galle, in the family of a court barber surgeon. The Prince-elector of Halle - the Duke of Saxony, noticed the child’s precocious musical abilities. The boy’s father inspired by the Duke sent the son to study with the best musician of the city F. Tsakhov. Compositions of Tsakhov inspired Handel to follow his teacher musical style. Formed as a person and as a composer, Handel became well- known in Germany when he was 11 years old. Studying law in the Halle University (which he entered in 1702, following his father’s will, who had already died by that time), Handel simultaneously served as an organist in the church, composed, and taught singing. He always worked hard and enthusiastically. In 1703, Handel left for Hamburg, one of the major German cultural centers in the 18th century. The first public Opera house, competing with the theaters in France and Italy was opened in Hamburg. The opera attracted Handel. The desire to feel the atmosphere of a musical theater, to acquaint with the opera music practically, made him enter the modest position of a second violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra.

The success of his first opera productions in Hamburg (“Almira” - 1705, “Nero” - 1705) inspired the young composer. However, his stay in Hamburg was short – the bankruptcy of Kaiser led to the closure of the Opera house. Handel left for Italy. Visiting Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples, the composer continued studying, absorbing a wide variety of artistic impressions, especially the operatic ones. It took him several months to master the style of the Italian opera, moreover, with such perfection that it surpassed many acknowledged authorities in Italy. His operas, staged in Florence (Rodrigo) and Venice (Agrippina), received enthusiastic recognition from Italians, very demanding and spoiled listeners. Handel became famous – he entered  the famous Arcadia Academy (along with Arcangelo Corelli, Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Marcello), received orders for composing music for the courts of Italian aristocrats.

In 1710, Handel was first invited to England, where he finally settled in 1716, and in 1726, he accepted English citizenship. Thus, a new stage in the life of the great master began. England, with its early enlightening ideas and classic literature (John Milton, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift), turned out to be the fruitful environment where the mighty creative power of the composer was revealed. Moreover, for England itself, the role of Handel was equal to the entire era. The people in England welcomed Handel at first as a master of the Italian style opera. Rather quickly, the composer thrash all his rivals, both English and Italian ones. In 1720, Handel took over the leadership of the Italian Opera Academy in London and thus became the head of the National Opera house. His opera masterpieces appeared in this period - Radamisto (1720), Ottone (1723), Giulio Cesare (1724), Tamerlano (1724), Rodelinda (1725), Admeto (1726). In these compositions, Handel went beyond the framework of the contemporary Italian opera-seria and created his own type of musical performance with brightly defined characters, psychological depth and dramatic tension of conflicts.

In June 1728, the Academy ceased to exist, hence Handel's authority, as a composer did not diminished with it. The English king George II ordered him the anthem on his coronation, which was performed at the Westminster Abbey in October 1727. At the same time, Handel continued to fight for opera with stubbornness, so characteristic of him. He went to Italy, recruited a new troupe and in December 1729 opened the season of the Second Opera Academy with the opera “Lotatio”. The period of new ideas pursuit began in the composer’s creative work. “Poro” (1731), “Orlando” (1732), “Partenope” (1730), “Ariodante ” (1734), “Alcina” (1734) - in each of these operas the composer updated the interpretation of the opera-seria genre in different ways. He introduced ballet (“Ariodante”, “Alcina”), saturated the “magical” plot with deeply dramatic, psychological content (“Orlando”, “Alcina”), and reached the highest perfection-simplicity and depth of expressiveness in the musical language. A turning point was taking shape - from the classical opera to the lyrical-comic in “Parthenope” with its soft irony, ease, grace, in “Faramondo” (1737), “Xerxes” (1737). One of his last operas, “Imeneo” (1738), Handel himself called an operetta.

Handel’s exhausting struggle for the Opera House, which was aggravated by political background, ended in defeat. The Second Opera Academy was closed in 1737. The composer was suffering the Academy wreckage, lapsed into illness and ceased working for almost 8 months. However, his amazing vitality again had the upper hand. Handel returned to work with new energy. He created his last opera masterpieces - "Imeneo", "Deidamia". Thus, he completed working in the opera genre, to which he devoted more than 30 years of his life. The composer's attention was focused on the oratorio. Even in Italy, Handel began to compose cantatas, choral spiritual music. Later, in England, Handel wrote choral anthems, festive cantatas. The final choirs in operas, ensembles also played a part in the process of sharpening the composer’s choral writing skills.

In 1738, one after another, 2 brilliant oratorios appeared – “Saul” (September 1738) and “Israel in Egypt” (October 1738) - gigantic, full of victorious vigor compositions, majestic hymns glorifying the strength of the human spirit and achievements. The 1740s was a brilliant period in the creative work of Handel. A masterpiece followed a masterpiece. “Messiah”, “Samson”, “Belshazzar”, “and Heracles” – the world-famous oratorios - were created in the unprecedented tension of creative forces, in a very short period of time (1741-43). Inspired by the national liberation ideas, Handel wrote two grandiose oratorios - “Oratorio for the event” (1746), calling for the fight against the invasion, and “Judas Maccabeus” (1747) - a powerful anthem in honor of the heroes defeating the enemies.

Handel became the idol of England. The language of the Handel oratorios was simple and majestic. Handel’s last oratorio – “Theodora”, “Hercules’ Choice” (both in 1750) and “Jephthah” (1751) - opened up such depths of psychological drama that were not available to any other musical genres in the time of Handel.

In 1751, the composer went blind. Suffering, hopelessly ill, Handel remained with the organ performing his oratorios. He was buried, as desired, in Westminster.

Source: Belcanto.ru