Upbringing and Early Career | Next >>
George Frideric Handel was born February 23rd 1685 in Halle, a small town in the Saxony region of Eastern Germany. Despite an inclination to music even at a young age, Handel's father wished for him to study law. Handel still pursued musical training at every available opportunity and received lessons from the very capable Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow.
After the death of his father, Handel dedicated himself entirely to his calling. In 1703 he moved to Hamburg and became a violinist and harpsichordist for the opera. Here his compositions and virtuoso keyboard playing won him greater attention, and he found a friend and rival in fellow composer Johann Mattheson. The rivalry turned ugly on one occasion when both wished to play the harpsichord during an opera performance and they fought a duel to settle the matter. According to the story the young Handel was saved by a button on his jacket, which prevented a thrust from Mattheson. Whether this anecdote is true or not, the two later became friends again and kept in touch for many years after.
Soon Handel's operas earned him fame abroad, and he received an invitation to Italy. He set out for Florence and Rome in 1706, where he would meet some of the leading musicians of his day. Through the following years his absorption of the Italian styles greatly enhanced his already formidable talent. He composed the Dixit Dominus, one of his earliest choral masterpieces, in 1707 at the age of 22. His unstaged religious drama La Resurrezione, which is also from this period, anticipates his later oratorio achievements. Click on the music for a Playlist of pieces Handel wrote in Italy.
Traveling to London late in 1710, Handel got his first glimpse of what would become his adopted country. Again he incorporated the national musical traditions into his own repertoire to achieve a unique sound. Following a six-month stay he returned home to Germany, but would not stay for long. In 1712 he settled in England, beginning his long career in Italian Opera. Next Page
Biography: Upbringing and Early Career | Handel's Opera Career | Transition to Oratorios | Final years | Legacy | Personality