14 Interesting Facts about George Frideric Handel

facts-about-george-frideric-handelGeorge Frideric Handel, a name synonymous with Baroque music, remains one of the most influential composers in Western classical tradition. Born in Halle, Germany, in 1685, Handel’s musical journey took him across Europe, eventually leading him to settle in England, where he left an indelible mark on the musical landscape.

Known for his operas, oratorios, and instrumental compositions, Handel’s legacy extends far beyond the notes on a page. His life, filled with remarkable achievements, intriguing personal anecdotes, and a profound impact on the royal court and public alike, offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of a musical genius.

In this article, we explore 15 interesting facts about George Frideric Handel, shedding light on the man behind the music, his extraordinary contributions, and the enduring power of his works that continues to captivate audiences centuries later.

14 Fun Facts about George Frideric Handel that You Should Know

#1 Handel’s Father Disapproved of His Musical Career

George Frideric Handel’s father, a barber-surgeon, initially disapproved of his son’s musical ambitions, believing a legal career was more appropriate. Despite this, Handel’s undeniable talent and passion for music were evident from a young age.

His mother, recognizing his potential, encouraged his musical education in secret. This early challenge did not deter Handel; instead, it fueled his determination, leading him to become one of the most celebrated composers of the Baroque era.

#2 Handel was a Child Prodigy

Demonstrating remarkable musical talent early on, Handel was a child prodigy. By the age of seven, he was proficient on the harpsichord and organ, and he composed his first opera by age twelve.

His precociousness was comparable to that of other musical geniuses like Mozart, setting the stage for a prolific career in composition and performance that would span across Europe.

#3 Handel’s Childhood Friend Nearly Killed Him in a Duel

In a dramatic turn of events early in his career, Handel found himself in a duel with Johann Mattheson, a fellow composer and childhood friend.

The dispute, reportedly over a performance disagreement, nearly ended fatally when Mattheson’s sword broke against a metal button on Handel’s coat, sparing his life. This incident, while shocking, did not sever their friendship, and they later reconciled.

#4 Handel was a Lady’s Man

Despite never marrying, Handel was known for his charm and wit, qualities that made him popular among the ladies of the aristocracy.

His extensive travels and the popularity of his music in the courts of Europe provided him with ample opportunity to engage with high society, where he was both admired and respected.

#5 Handel had a Vicious Temper

Known for his hot temper, Handel’s outbursts were legendary. One famous incident involved Handel threatening to throw the soprano Francesca Cuzzoni out of a window during a rehearsal disagreement.

His temper, however, was matched by his musical genius, allowing him to navigate the competitive and often stressful environment of 18th-century music production.

#6 Handel was German but Became a British Citizen

Born in Halle, Germany, in 1685, Handel spent the bulk of his career in England, becoming a naturalized British citizen in 1727.

His adoption of England as his home country significantly influenced his compositions, leading to works like “Messiah,” which have become staples in British musical heritage.

#7 Handel was very Philanthropic

Handel was known for his generosity, often performing benefit concerts for charities.

His annual performances of “Messiah” for the Foundling Hospital in London, which he also supported financially, highlighted his philanthropic nature and left a lasting legacy of charitable work linked to his music.

#8 Handel had many Health Issues

Throughout his life, Handel faced numerous health challenges, including a stroke in 1737 that temporarily paralyzed his right arm and led to significant loss of mobility. Despite these setbacks, he continued to compose and perform, although his health issues eventually contributed to his blindness and, later, his death.

#9 Handel Performances Started Standing Ovations

The tradition of audiences standing during performances of the “Hallelujah” chorus from “Messiah” is said to have originated with King George II, who was so moved by the piece during its London premiere that he stood up, prompting the rest of the audience to do the same.

This act of respect and admiration has become a lasting tradition, celebrating Handel’s enduring impact on music.

#10 Handel was into Opera Management

In addition to composing, Handel was deeply involved in the management and production of operas.

He co-founded the Royal Academy of Music in 1719, a company dedicated to producing operas in London. Despite facing financial difficulties and fierce competition, Handel’s entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to opera significantly influenced the English opera scene.

#11 Handel wrote Music for Royal Fireworks

Handel composed “Music for the Royal Fireworks” in 1749 to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, which marked the end of the War of the Austrian Succession.

The grand outdoor performance in London’s Green Park featured more than 100 musicians but was marred by a fire that broke out, causing chaos. Despite this, the music was widely acclaimed and remains one of Handel’s most popular works.

#12 Handel was International Famous

Handel’s fame during his lifetime was not limited to England; he was celebrated across Europe. His music was admired by composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

Mozart is reputed to have said, “Handel understands effect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.”

#13 The “Handel Organ” in London

Handel was an accomplished organist, and one of the instruments he frequently played, located at St. George’s Church in Hanover Square, London, is often referred to as the “Handel Organ.”

His contributions to organ music and his performances during his own oratorio concerts have left a lasting mark on the repertoire for the instrument.

#14 Handel is Buried in Westminster Abbey

Upon his death in 1759, Handel was given the honor of being buried in Westminster Abbey, an indication of the high regard in which he was held by both the British public and royalty.

His monument in the Abbey, sculpted by Louis-François Roubiliac, depicts him with a score of “Messiah,” celebrating his enduring legacy in the world of classical music.

Frequently Asked Questions

Did George Frideric Handel ever marry or have children?

No, George Frideric Handel never married nor had any children. He dedicated his life to his music, leaving behind a legacy of compositions rather than a family.

What was the nature of Handel’s relationship with the British Royal Family?

Handel enjoyed a close and supportive relationship with the British Royal Family, particularly with King George I and later with George II, who admired his work and commissioned several pieces from him, including the famous “Water Music” for George I.

How did Handel’s health affect his career in his later years?

Handel’s health deteriorated significantly in his later years, including struggles with blindness and several paralytic attacks, but he continued to compose and perform, adapting his methods of composing and conducting to accommodate his physical limitations.

Was Handel involved in any significant rivalries or conflicts within the music community of his time?

Yes, Handel experienced professional rivalries, most notably with fellow composer Giovanni Battista Bononcini, as they competed for the favor of London’s opera-going public and patrons, leading to a division among audiences and performers alike.

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