George Frideric Handel

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Born: Halle, February 23, 1685

Died: London, April 14, 1759

    Born in Halle (50 miles from Eisenach, Bach's birthplace) in the same year as Bach, Handel studied with Zachau, and became a friend of Mattheson. In 1703 he was appointed violinist-composer for Hamburg's German opera. Handel sojourned in Italy in 1706 where he met Corelli, and both Scarlattis (Alessandro and Domenico). His return to Hanover, four years later, was to assume the post of Kapellmeister to the Elector (soon to become King George I of England). In 1712 Handel moved to London where, upon the accession of the house of Hanover, two years later, he gained immediate access to the royal circle of England. In 1717 Handel succeeded Pepusch as chapel master to the Duke of Chandos. Handel's London years were occupied primarily with the writing of Italian operas. After suffering a stroke and the failure of his operas (largely because of the success of the Beggar's Opera), Handel wrote oratorios, including "Messiah" (1741). Handel's eyesight failed him in later years and he eventually became completely blind. In addition to operas and oratorios, Handel wrote Psalms, motets, anthems, passions, cantatas, instrumental chamber works, and works for keyboard (primarily harpsichord).

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    In 1719 Bach attempted to arrange a meeting with the visiting Handel. Although this meeting never took place, in one of the curious ironies of music history, both men would be afflicted with cataracts in their old age, undergo surgery at the hand of the same oculist, John Taylor, and die from sepsimia induced as a consequence of un-sterile instruments employed to push the cataract covered lense back into the eyeball (in an attempt to allow some light to enter). As this surgery was done without anesthesia, the courage and physical constitution of both men must have been amazing! Bach owned a copy of Handel's Brockes Passion, "Armida abbandonata" and the Concerto grosso in F minor. Thematic similarities in some of Bach's cantatas suggest that he may have been familiar with Handel's opera, "Almira". Handel is mentioned in a letter (1775) from Carl Philip Emanuel to Frokel as one whose works his father had especially valued in later years.

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