Handel, George Frideric

(23 February 1685, Halle, Saxony, Germany – 14 April 1759, London)
   With Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the supreme composers of the high Baroque, Handel was not by profession a church composer. He did write a number of anthems and smaller sacred works and invented the English oratorio, a hybrid of sacred and secular elements that assures his renown in sacred music, particularly through a single work of that genre, Messiah.
   While Handel enjoyed the occasional patronage of the great families of Florence and Rome during his sojourn in Italy (1706–1710), and of English nobility and royalty (along with pensions) after his permanent move to London in 1712, he made his living chiefly by composing operas for a paying public and thus was one of the first major composers to liberate himself from both court and church. Between 1711 and 1741 he composed about 40 Italian opere serie based on historical and mythological plots for small companies of professional singers, usually Italian.
   It is simplistic to say that Handel invented the English oratorio as a way to save his theatrical career after the foreign opera seria would no longer sell to the London public, as the table on page 83 shows an overlap of over 20 years between his first oratorio and last opera, and yet there is some truth to this traditional view. He did suffer both competition with a rival opera company and the public’s growing indifference to any opera production through the mid-1730s, and although he was slow to give up the Italian opera, persisting until 1741 with Imeneo and Deidemia, both of which failed, he attempted no more after Messiah. The relative success of his new Englishlanguage genre convinced him of his new livelihood.
   The transition was not difficult. Handel’s English oratorio is not far from Italian opera seria. The essential musico-dramatic conventions of recitative and aria remain. The plots are still mythological and historical, except that the history is almost always sacred, with sources predominantly in the Old Testament. The instrumental effects, textures, and genres within the work are the same. The language shifts from Italian to English. All of Handel’s powers as a musical dramatist won from decades of operatic experience could apply directly. The one substantial change, and the hallmark of Handel’s adaptation, is the addition of a chorus that at times comments and moralizes on the action in the manner of a Greek chorus, and at other times participates in it. An early acquaintance with Racine’s Biblical tragedies Esther and Athalie, sources for two of Handel’s earliest essays in the form, may have given him the inspiration to exploit the great English tradition of choral singing in this way. Seven of the 24 oratorios listed have classical literature as the text sources. The remaining 17, being sacred dramas designed for the commercial theater, occupy a strange border zone in the sacred repertory. Except for Israel in Egypt, composed like a grand anthem on the Canticle of Moses (Exodus 15), and the unique, contemplative {}Messiah, the dramas in Handel’s oratorios are entirely human and, like Greek tragedies, demand little in the way of belief to make sense. On the other hand, the grandeur of their choral praises of God and the virtues of their Biblical heroes can certainly edify a faith already present.
   Handel’s sacred music, apart from the oratorios, consists of nine concerted motets written in Italy, one sacred Italian oratorio La Resurrezione (1708), one passion on the widely set libretto of Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1716), 11 anthems composed for the Duke of Chandos (1717–1718), four "Coronation" anthems (1727), five settings of Te Deum, including the famous Utrecht (1713) and Dettingen (1743), and 12 other occasional anthems. Many of these are richly scored in the Baroque manner and may occupy up to 45 minutes in performance.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Handel, George Frideric — orig. Georg Friedrich Händel born Feb. 23, 1685, Halle, Brandenburg died April 14, 1759, London, Eng. German born British composer. Born to a barber surgeon in Halle, he showed a marked gift for music and studied organ, violin, and composition.… …   Universalium

  • Handel,George Frideric — Han·del (hănʹdl), George Frideric. 1685 1759. German born composer whose works include the English oratorio Messiah (1742) and the orchestral Water Music (1717).   Han·delʹi·an (hăn dēʹlē ən, dēlʹyən, dĕlʹē ən, dĕlʹyən) adj. * * * …   Universalium

  • Handel, George Frideric —  (1685–1759) German composer, born Georg Friedrich Händel …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • George Frideric Handel — (Friday, 23 February 1685 – Saturday, 14 April 1759) was a German born Baroque composer who is famous for his operas, oratorios and concerti grossi. Born as Georg Friedrich Händel (IPA2|ˈhɛndəl) in Halle, he spent most of his adult life in… …   Wikipedia

  • George Frideric Handel — Georg Friedrich Haendel Georg Friedrich Haendel Haendel par Balthazar Denner (1727) Naissance 23 février  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • George Frideric Handel — Georg Friedrich Händel Georg Friedrich Händel (anglisiert: George Frideric Handel; * 23. Februar 1685 in Halle an der Saale, Herzogtum Magdeburg; † 14. April 1759 in London) war ein deutsch britischer Komponist in der Epoche des Barock. Sein… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • George Frideric Handel — noun a prolific British baroque composer (born in Germany) remembered best for his oratorio Messiah (1685 1759) • Syn: ↑Handel, ↑George Frederick Handel, ↑Georg Friedrich Handel • Derivationally related forms: ↑Handelian (for: ↑Handel) …   Useful english dictionary

  • George Frideric Handel — ➡ Handel * * * …   Universalium

  • List of compositions by George Frideric Handel — The following is a list of compositions by George Frideric Handel.OperasOdes and masquesItalian triosEnglish songsMotetsAnthemsConcerti grossiTrio sonatasAppendixHWV missingHandel compositions not included in the HWV Catalogue.External links*… …   Wikipedia

  • Händel-Gesellschaft — A title page of Händelgesellschaft volume 1 (1858) …   Wikipedia

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