Born in the same year of 1685 and from the same North-German background, Handel and J.S.Bach were reared in the same Protestant environment, but that is where the similarity ended. You have only to listen to much of his music to see how Handel had a ‘breadth’ of musical experience, (in comparison to Bach who was much more intense and narrow in his life), and this is shown in how he lived his life. Maybe it was because he was a bachelor that he had the freedom to move outwards and upwards in the musical world.
He was born in Halle in 1685, went against the wishes of his parents to become a violinist in Hamburg Opera Orchestra, and was organist at the Protestant Cathedral at 18. He then headed for Italy in his early twenties and gained a reputation on the keyboard, and he produced his first operas there.
On returning to Germany he became Director of Music to the Elector of Hanover, but soon left for England (he fairly got about, didn’t he!). He set-to and produced operas, and at first made some money, but then financial failure occurred, and he went into writing oratorios…..which were to be his greatest memorial.
Failing health and sight left him completely blind in his late sixties. He died, aged 74, and was buried with national honours in Westminster Abbey. He has always been remembered because of Messiah, which was composed within a month, and was first performed in Dublin.
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