Handel, George Frideric

Händel was a late Baroque English composer born in Germany who is well known for his operas, oratorios, and instrumental compositions. Handel's style was based on his childhood memories of north German pop, but it was quickly supplanted by the Italian style he picked up during his early adulthood travels in Italy. Handel's later music has robustness about it that lends it an English flavor. His music is, above all, eminently vocal. Handel is regarded as one of the greatest masters of choral music because of his forthright demeanor. His choruses have never been overshadowed in terms of strength and usefulness, and his writing for them is noteworthy for the way he interweaves vast, yet, clear harmonic passages with contrapuntal parts of tremendous creativity, both of which serve to better explain the text. His solo voice writing is notable for its adaptability to the medium and unwavering melodic thread. Handel had a tremendous capacity to musically represent a human character in a single scene or aria, which he used to great dramatic benefit in his operas and oratorios. Handel was a lifetime theater fan, and his oratorios were almost often presented on stage rather than in church. He enjoyed Italian opera until nearly the end of his life, and only after it began to cause him ever-increasing financial losses did he leave it in favor of English oratorio. He adopted the traditions of Italian opera, with its use of male sopranos and contraltos and the formalized sequences of stylized recitatives and arias on which opera seria was founded, as did other composers of his day. He produced several masterpieces by following these rules. Handel's oratorios, on the other hand, now sound much more emotional than his operas, and they can be done on stage with remarkably little change.

Handel also wrote secular works in the dramatic oratorio style, the most famous of which is Semele and Hercules, both focused on Greek mythology. But Acis and Galatea, his best secular choral production, has youthful magic that he never again regained in subsequent works of this genre. Handel's most popular contribution to church music is a collection of large-scale anthems, the most famous of which is the 11 Chandos Anthems, which are written for a small group of singers and instrumentalists but are conceived on a vast scale while being written for a small group of singers and instrumentalists. The bulk of Handel's orchestral music consists of overtures, which amount to about 80 and are mostly in the Lully type. Handel was also a master of the concerto style, especially the concerto grosso, which featured four or more movements. Handel also recorded harpsichord pieces, with two collections of suites, Suites de pièces pour le clavecin (1720) and Suites de pièces (1733), totaling 17 sets, becoming his most important contributions to the instrument's repertoire. He also composed sonatas for one or two solo instruments with harpsichord basso continuo accompaniment. He was himself an accomplished organist, having written more than 20 organ concertos, the majority of which Handel used as intermission pieces throughout the presentations of his oratorios. Handel was already deemed a classic composer in England during his lifetime, and he is probably the only artist who has never seen his name tarnished there since. He had met some of the demands of aristocratic patronage as a young man on the European continent, but in England, he adapted to a new atmosphere of thought and taste and came to represent and articulate the interests of a broader population. He democratized music more than anybody else, and his famous oratorios, poems, and best-loved instrumental works have social importance that goes beyond their strictly musical significance. Handel's music is ingrained in the national identity of England. Meanwhile, in Germany, interest in his music rose rapidly in the late 18th century, reestablishing him as a leading German composer.


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