Georg Friderich Handel: 1685 - 1759

Born in Halle (Germany) on 23rd February 1685, Handel was originally intended by his barber-surgeon father to practice Law. When Handel Senior finally accepted his son's musicianship, the young Handel became a student of Zachou, Halle's principal organist.

At 17 Handel became organist of the Calvinist Cathedral but left for Hamburg only a year later, where he played violin and harpsichord in the opera house. The next year he was invited to Italy, and spent the next three years in various Italian cities having his operas and other works performed in Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice among others.

Between 1711 and 1715 - based mainly in London - he produced 5 operas in addition to writing music for the church and court. Handel was appointed musical director of the Royal Academy of Music when it was opemed in 1720. In 1727 he took British naturalization, and composed 4 anthems for George II's coronation.

During the 1730s Handel moved between Italian opera and English forms (oratorio etc) but after Messiah's premiere, he put opera behind him and for most of the remainder of his life, gave oratorio performances.

During his last decade he gave regular performances of Messiah, usually with about 16 singers and an orchestra of about 40. Handel died in London on 14th April 1759, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.