On February 23rd, 1685: George Frideric Handel, famous baroque composer, was born

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner, courtesy of WikiCommons

This day is the 328th birthday of George Frideric Handel. He was one of the great baroque musicians, and is one of the greatest British composers of all time. Except that he isn’t British at all, but German.

Handel was born on Feburary 23rd, 1685 in Halle, a town in Saxony-Anhalt, then the Duchy of Magdeburg, where he became an appointed organist at the Domkirche being only 17. However, he left Germany at the age of 25 to become Kapellmeister of the later King George the I. of England. In 1727 he was granted the British citizenship. While at first he was quite popular for his Italian style operas, like Alcina or Orlando, he later concentrated on oratorios, written in English language, of which the most famous is without doubt “The Messiah“. Other famous works include “The Water Music” and the “Music for the Royal Fireworks” as well as the oratorio “Judas Maccabeus”, from which the popular Christmas Carol “Zion’s Daughter” (which is in fact rather a hymn for Palm Sunday) is taken. One of the highlights of his career in Britain was most certainly the commission of the anthem for the coronation of King George II, “Zadok the Priest”, which is an essential part of every coronation performed since.

Through all his life, Handel was a prolific composer, his works include 42 operas, 29 oratorios, 16 organ concerts and hundreds of other works. Though he was incredibly popular, he kept his life very private, never married, and bequeathed a big part of his belongings to his servants and charities when he died, aged 74 and almost blind, on April 14th, 1759. During his lifetime and till today, he has been highly valued by his fellow musicians, eg. Bach and Mozart. His grave can be found in Westminster Cathedral.
George Frideric Handel SignatureTo celebrate the anniversary of one of my very favourite composers, I’ve searched for some interesting links you may have missed:

Start with an extended biography on Wikipedia.

Handels original name, Georg Friedrich Händel, with its typically German Umlaut is quite a problem for speakers of English. Read an insightful, but funny article about that problem: “How to handle spelling Händel“.

His legacy is preserved at the Handel House Museum at London. Visit the website (which also provides very handy synopses of his operas) or read a in-depths-interview with Museum director Sarah Bradwell.

NPR provides a nice compilation of information, a podcast and a performance of the “Messiah”, a podcast providing facts about the piece and an article called “The eternal Genius of Handel“. Smithsonian also explores “The glorious history of Handel’s Messiah“.

Read a rather enthusiastic poem dedicated to Handel’s organ playing from 1722.

Can you be so brilliant and still sane? Apparently yes, says a Psychiatrist.

Here is the text of Handel’s will.

Did you know that another great musician lived in Handel’s house centuries after his death? Read about “Jimi Hendrix and Handel: Housemates separated by time“.

See how hundreds of people celebrate Handels birthday in Halle, his birth town.

Listen to my very favorite organ concerto of Handel:

And – last but not least – enjoy the end of Handel’s famous Hallelujah from “The Messiah”. With the best organist ever. NOT. (Please don’t click this if you have sensitive ears in regard to wrong notes):

An if this is still not enough – read through hundreds of sources at the Handel reference database or read or download the Wikipedia Book on Handel here, that provides dozens of wikipedia entries on his life and works.