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George Frideric Handel

George Frideric HandelGEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685 – 1759) was the consummate 18th-century traveler, artiste and entrepreneur. He was an independent and strong-willed individual, and although he was approached several times by royal patrons to become their court composer, Handel was hesitant to professionally “settle down” until he was offered a position commensurate with the status he felt he deserved.

Born in Halle, Germany, Handel grew up under the watchful eyes of his parents. While his mother nurtured Handel’s musical gifts, his father tried to dissuade him from pursuing a dubious occupation. Following brief, unsuccessful studies at the local university, Handel traveled to Hamburg and then onto Italy (Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice), where he met important individuals who greatly influenced his musical future. These included the composers and musicians Arcangelo Corelli and Domenico Scarlatti and numerous royalty (both religious and secular).

Following his fruitful Italian tour, Handel returned north of the Alps, accepting the appointment of court composer to the Elector of Hanover. He quickly followed this up with two extended visits to London, where he finally settled and which he eventually considered home (becoming a British subject). Ironically, the same Elector of Hanover became King George I of England, following the death of Queen Anne (brought about by the 1701 Act of Settlement).

Handel lived a full and productive life. Yet, life wasn’t easy for him. At various times, he was criticized severely by the English social establishment for his artistic output, which some considered profane. For example, Handel’s most famous work, Messiah, was received enthusiastically following its première in Dublin while it became the subject of great controversy following its London debut. Furthermore, Handel suffered bouts of anxiety and depression and possibly strokes. (Some have theorized that he suffered central nervous system lead poisoning associated with his imbibing of cheap port.) During the later years of his life, Handel experienced progressively debilitating cataracts, and the ensuing operations to restore his vision left him completely blind.

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