About George Frideric Handel

As a child, German born George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was
captivated by music. His aunt gave him a small harpsichord for his
seventh birthday. The harpsichord was placed in the attic of Handel’s
home and whenever he had a chance, Handel would sneak up to the attic
to play.

At the age of eight, Handel’s father took him to the court of Saxe-
Weissenfels, where he had an opportunity to play the organ. When the
Duke heard Handel’s talent, he charged Handel’s father to provide
Handel with the best possible training in music. Handel began to study
music with the organist of St. Michael’s in Halle, Germany. He learned to
compose and also to play violin, oboe, organ and harpsichord.
In 1702, at the age of seventeen, Handel entered the University of Halle
as a law student. This did not last long; Handel soon left the university,
taking his first music position as organist of Halle Cathedral. Handel
became an outstanding organist and concertized throughout Europe. In
1711, Handel settled into the musical scene in England and produced his
first opera. Rinaldo debuted at the Queen’s Theater and was well
received. Handel was so favored in England that he received a yearly
royal pension. In 1727, Handel officially applied for and became a British
subject.

In 1741, Handel composed Messiah in merely three week’s time. The
premiere performance took place in Dublin and Messiah became an
instant success. It is said that when King George II attended the first
Messiah performance in London, he was so moved that he rose to his feet
when hearing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The tradition begun by King
George II continues to this day.

Although Handel became blind near the end of his life, he continued to
perform on the organ. He also continued to compose music by dictating
to a friend who acted as scribe. On April 6, 1759, Handel conducted a
final performance of Messiah at Covent Garden. He died eight days
later. Handel was given a state funeral and was buried in the Poet’s
Corner of Westminster Abby. Over 3000 people attended his funeral.
When questioned about composing Messiah, Handel is reported to have
said, “Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it
I know not. God knows.”