George Frederick Handel (23 February 1685 - 14 April 1759) was a German-English Baroque composer who was born in Halle, Germany (Halle is the largest city in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt.) Handel moved to Hamburg in 1703 after being unsatisfied as the organist at the local Protestant cathedral. He got a position as violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the opera house. In 1706 Handel travelled to Italy at the invitation of Gian Gastone de' Medici, whom Handel had met in 1703/1704 in Hamburg. In 1710, Handel moved to Hanover Germany to become Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover, who would become King George I of Great Britain in 1714. In that year Handel moved back to London and stayed there for 35 years with yearly salary for the rest of his life.
Handels was influenced by his father and the duke: Handel's father wanted him to become a lawyer and have nothing to do with music or playing an instrument however a clavichord was smuggled in with muffled strings so his father would not be able to hear him play. His father took him to Weissenfels where his playing on the chapel organ attracted the attention of the duke. The duke was amazed by Handel's abilities in the chapel that he insisted that Handel is allowed to study music. The duke thought it would be a crime to rob the world of such genius.
Handel wrote many works including:
Operas eg. Araphina which brought him fame in Italy in 1709 and Rinaldo which brought him fame in London in 1711
Dramatic Oratorios eg The Messiah in 1741 which is famous all around the world and Athalia in 1742 which is famous in Dublin
100 Cantatas and 20 Chamber Duets
Church Music eg. Gloria Patri (1707), Funeral Anthem (1707)
Orchestra-eg. Water Music (1717),
Instrumental And Chamber Music ~ Including 9 Trio Sonatas, 5 Concerti for Orchestra.
Vocal Music eg. Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (1713)
An oratorio is a musical play based on a bible story or scripture. It uses choruses, ensembles and solos to tell a story and usually, an organ or orchestra accompanies the singers. Oratorios are not acted out with costumes or props. The Messiah is an oratorio. You go along and listen to it or sing along to it near Christmas time. This is because The Messiah is about Christs' life and Christmas Day is his birthday.
In 1741 Handel began putting Charles Jennens' Biblical libretto to music, and 24 days later Messiah was complete (August 22 - September 14). The Messiah was written because Handel was discouraged with his opera writing and after being sent libretto from Charles Jennings Handel felt inspired and immediately began setting the work to music. Legend says that when Handel had finished his work, a servant of his heard him exclaim "Hallelujah Chorus," "I did think I did see all of the heaven before me and the great God Himself!"
The Hallelujah Chorus:
A chorus is a musical ensemble of singers who perform the non-soloist parts of an opera or musical theatre production (or sometimes an oratorio). Handel was known as the master of the oratorio where no composer before or after has surpassed his abilities in writing them. The Hallelujah Chorus was typical of his writing because he wrote 27 oratorios in the later part of his life and wrote many operas which indicate he enjoyed composing music which consists of instruments and singing.
The Hallelujah Chorus is a typical piece of music written in the Baroque period because of the religious text used and the use of English to please the middle class. Religious text is found throughout the Hallelujah Chorus including in bars 36-51 where the text states that "He shall reign forever and ever." referring to Christ. Another thing that makes the Hallelujah Chorus typical of the Baroque period is the way Handel used a mix of homophonic, polyphonic and a small amount of monophonic texture eg. Bars 33-41 of the Hallelujah Chorus is homophonic and bars 41-51 are polyphonic.