Born on the 23rd of February, 1685, George Fredric Handel was a famous German composer of Baroque music. He was trained in Halle and started building his career in Hamburg and Italy before moving to England. George Frideric spent most of his career life in London hence being known as a British composer in his later years.
Some of the things that made him a world-renowned artist include his anthems, operas, organ concertos and oratorios. He founded some famous opera companies aimed at supplying the Italian opera to the English people. How much do you know about this most celebrated artist of his era? We have compiled a list of amazing facts about George Frideric Handel.
Handel: Interesting Facts about the Famous Baroque Composer
1. He trained in secret
How many cases have you had of kids being forced to pursue things in which they are not interested? Well, Goerge Frideric is one of them. Handel’s father, who was a lawyer at the time, was not willing to support his son’s ambitions. An interesting fact about George Handel is that his father did not permit him to own any musical instrument because he was not confident that music was his son’s best option.
But since Handel was determined to make it in that field, he went against his father’s wishes. He even had to sneak to the attic where he could play the clavichord without his father knowing. Fortunately, he had a mother who understood his dreams and encouraged him to continue practising. She is probably the reason we celebrate Handel’s success today.
2. Mattheson almost ended his career
Johann Mattheson was Handel’s friend, and both worked towards developing their careers in music. Like any other pair of friends, they had their ups and downs. However, one of the “downs” almost proved pivotal in Handel’s career. It was an evening of cheers that nearly ended in tears!
Once Johann was done singing on the stage, he left for his seat at the keyboard. He was supposed to resume his position there, but Handel had other ideas. This disagreement led to angry words which escalated into a fierce fight. Both parties drew their swords and Mattheson was the first to strike. Fortunately, it hit Handel’s metal button (which broke the sword) instead of the man’s chest.
3. Rinaldo was the beginning of his London Success
When he moved to London, Handel developed quite quickly, and with no time, he was the people’s favourite composer. In 1711, he composed the first-ever opera written in Italian for the London stage. This proved to be the hit that would print his name in the minds of the English nobility. He performed Rinaldo at the Queen’s Theatre on the 24th of February, 1711.
4. His first English composition became his most famous work
If you asked about Handel’s work today, some of the answers would include Messiah and Rinaldo, but no one seems to mention Acis and Galatea. It might not be well-known in the current era, but it was the most popular in his time, an interesting George Handel fact. This piece was the first one he ever did in English and to show how much the people loved it, Mozart did a re-write in 1788.
5. Handel suffered from cataracts which led to his blindness
Some of the things that are not well-known about this famous composer include his health issues. Records show that he once suffered from a stroke which impaired his right hand. As such, he had to take a break from his career, and his fans worried about him.
Later in his life (1751), Handel was diagnosed with cataracts, a severe eye disease. As such, he had a declining vision in his final decade. Taylor, his doctor, tried to do a surgery on his eye but the operation failed. Some experts believe that his retina may have been detached after the operation and could be one probable cause of his death.
6. His final oratorio was quite emotional
Imagine composing a piece of art, then your eye goes dark on you. That is precisely what happened to Handel as he was coming up with his final oratorio. His left eye had suffered advanced cataracts and was becoming quite difficult for him to see. As such, in his final piece, he finished with heartbreaking words. The last sentence suggests that he completed the writing on the 13th of February, 1751 and that he was unable to go on due to the deteriorating vision of his left eye.
7. His funeral was a big state function
Owing to his fame and how much he was loved by the English people, including the royal family, Handel’s send-off was a huge ceremony. An interesting George Handel fact is that his funeral was attended by over 3,000 people who came to say their last goodbyes. The choirs of Westminster, St Paul’s, and Chapel Royal combined to sing at his funeral. Some of the notable names at the function included Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and Rudyard Kipling.
8. He chose the venue for his funeral
In his will, Handel must have proposed many things, and his place of burial was undoubtedly one of them. He wanted the place where he would be laid to rest and also the grounds where the ceremony was to be held. Westminster Abbey is the name of the area and the choir members of this particular church even sung on that eventful day, an interesting fact about George Handel.
9. There is a museum of his belongings in Mayfair
Exactly in Mayfair, there is a permanent monument built to reflect Handel’s life. It contains all the essential features or instruments that he closely related to before and during his career. The house-museum has been beautifully kept in the same arrangement that Handel loved. It was on this house that Handel lived for 26 years before his death in 1759.
I hope that this fact about George Handel was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!