Georg Friedrich Haendel
The king of opera, Handel’s exceptional disposition for music was evident from a very early age. A barber-surgeon and chamberlain for the Duke of Saxe, Handel’s father was opposed to the solid musical tuition the young musician received in Halle from Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, (1663-1712). Handel consolidated his reputation from city to city, from the harpsichord to the organ and through his encounters with Telemann and Buxtehude before settling in Hamburg.
After composing two operas, the young composer decided to leave for Italy to perfect his style and meet Domenico Scarlatti, Corelli and Pasquini. The composer had his operas performed in Florence, Rome and Venice. A great traveller, Handel went to Hanover and London where his opera Rinaldo was a triumph. He took English nationality in 1726 and composed for the British numerous Italian operas, which were very in vogue. A victim of plots and conspiracies, Handel skilfully managed to remain venerated by the British public who made him rich and renowned. Berlioz noted, “The heavy wigged head of this barrel of pork and bear named Handel”.
Although Handel composed over forty operas, sometimes conventional with mediocre librettos, his genius was particularly evident in his oratorios and keyboard pieces. His sense of the melodic line was unequalled and thanks to the company of the great singers and castratos of the time, Handel wrote eminently vocal music with natural curves and refined, elegant eloquence. His pieces for keyboard displayed this same art with a sharp sense of counterpoint. A clever man, Handel ingeniously drew from German, Italian and English styles. He is no doubt the first great European composer.