georg Friedrich Handel

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georg Friedrich Handel
Handel's signature

George Frideric Handel (according Taufregister Georg Friederich Handel , anglicised: George Frideric Handel ; * February 23 . Jul / 5. March  1685 . Greg in Halle (Saale) , † 14. April 1759 in London ) was a German composer of the Baroque , who had been a British citizen since 1727. His main work comprises 42 operas and 25 oratorios - including Messiah with the world-famous choirHalleluja“-, church music for the English court, cantatas, numerous works for orchestra as well as chamber and piano music . Handel, whose artistic output extended to all musical genres of his time, was also active as an opera entrepreneur . He is considered one of the most important musicians in history.


Origin and youth in Halle

Oldest known depiction of Handel's birthplace, engraving from The Illustrated London News dated July 18, 1859
Handel's baptism entry in the church register of the Marktkirche Our Dear Women on February 24, 1685 ( Marienbibliothek Halle)
Handel's family tree

Handel was born in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti . The only source on Handel's youth is the biography Memoirs of the life of the Late George Frederic Handel , published in London in 1760 by the theologian John Mainwaring . Mainwaring seems to have obtained information about the composer's early years in direct discussions with the composer himself. However, more recent biographers have been able to show that the chronology of the events he describes cannot be correct. Since Handel himself spoke only sparingly about his youth, knowledge of this phase of life remains fragmentary.

According to his biographer Mainwaring, Handel's father Georg , who was a body surgeon and secret valet, was aiming for a legal career for his son and was extremely opposed to his musical interests. Mother Dorothea Handel (nee Taust) devoted herself to the numerous domestic duties of raising and educating her children, whereby - similar to her parents' home - a large amount of music was given. Against the initial resistance of her husband, she especially encouraged the musical talent of her son Georg Friedrich.

The father's resistance only subsided during a visit to the Duke of Saxony-Weißenfels at Neu-Augustusburg Castle , where the Duke's court had resided since 1680. Handel, then not yet eight years old, played the organ there in the presence of the Duke. He immediately recognized the boy's talent and convinced his father to let Georg Friedrich train as a musician.

After returning to Halle, Handel became a student of Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow , the composer and music director of the Marktkirche Unser Lieben Frauen . Zachow's compositional style is characterized on the one hand by wide-ranging spaciousness and on the other hand by breathtaking contrapuntal condensation (especially in the choirs of his cantatas) . Not only did Handel later pick up on thematic materials from Zachow and use them artistically, but also Johann Sebastian Bach, who also applied for his successor after Zachow's death. Handel now received basic composition and instrumental training from Zachow. From the age of nine, according to Mainwaring, Handel began to “compose church pieces [cantatas] with [voices] and instruments”. During his apprenticeship, Handel also wrote a harp part for Zachow's cantata Herr, if only I have you .

According to Mainwaring, Handel traveled with his father to the Brandenburg court in Berlin in 1698 . However, this could have been the beginning of 1697 at the latest, since Georg Handel in February d. J. died. On the other hand, the above-mentioned meeting with the composers Giovanni Bononcini and Attilio Ariosti may only have taken place later, as they did not reach Berlin until 1702 or in late 1697. The young Handel may have been to the Berlin court several times. Elector Friedrich III. , as Duke of Magdeburg his sovereign , was so impressed by the skills of the twelve-year-old that he offered Handel's father to finance his son's music education in Italy and, after successful completion, to get him a job at the Berlin court. However, according to Mainwaring, Handel's father did not accept the electoral offer. The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I , who went down in history as the “Soldier King”, was later an extraordinary admirer of Handel's compositions. His successor and son Friedrich II , himself a composer and also an excellent flautist, tried in vain to acquire his autographs after Handel's death .

In 1701 Georg Philipp Telemann stopped in Halle on his journey from Magdeburg to Leipzig to get to know the "already important Mr. Georg Fr. Händel". As Telemann reports, this resulted in a lifelong, constructive and productive collaboration between the two composers: “[…] in melodic movements […] and their investigation, Handel and I, with frequent visits on both sides, as well as in writing, were constantly busy . ”In 1702, Handel enrolled at the newly founded university in the Ratswaage in Halle to study law with Christian Thomasius , who was the first to give his lectures in German and who contributed to ending the witch hunt. On March 13, 1702, Handel also took over the post of organist at Halle Cathedral for a probationary year, as the local cantor Leporin had been dismissed at short notice. It was to be the only traditional musician job in his life.

As the English music scholar and world traveler Charles Burney narrates , Handel himself later said of this time: "I wrote like the devil at the time, mostly for the hoboe , which was my favorite instrument ."


In the summer of 1703, Handel went to Hamburg . Under the direction of the composer Reinhard Keizer , the first bourgeois German opera house , which opened on Gänsemarkt in 1678 as an opera theater , attracted young musicians. In that opera orchestra, Handel initially played the violin and later the harpsichord. He made friends with the composer, conductor and singer Johann Mattheson , who later wrote influential music-theoretical works such as Das Neu-Eröffe Orchester (1713), The perfect Kapellmeister (1739) and the music dictionary Basis einer Ehren-Pforte (1740). When the post of the famous composer and organist Dieterich Buxtehude at Lübeck's Marienkirche became vacant because he wanted to retire because of his old age, Handel and Mattheson traveled together to Lübeck in August 1703 . But neither of them applied for the position because, according to tradition, the successful candidate should have married Buxtehude's eldest daughter.

On December 5, 1704, in the middle of the performance of Mattheson's opera Cleopatra, there was an argument between Handel and Mattheson. The former refused to give the composer the conductor's seat when the composer wanted to take his place at the harpsichord again as usual , after he had lost himself on the stage as Antonius . The dispute led to a duel in front of the opera on Gänsemarkt, "which could have been very unhappy for both of us if God's guidance had not been so gracious that the blade would have cracked when I hit a broad, metal button on my opponent's skirt" ( Mattheson). Since then, the relationship between the two has been tense and reserved. Thus, despite requests from Handel, Mattheson did not receive any biographical data for his basis for an honorary gate . In his German translation of John Mainwaring's Handel biography, Mattheson, on the other hand, constantly intervened with hateful and derogatory comments on Handel.

On January 8, 1705, Handel's first opera Almira was performed in Hamburg. Handel had jumped into the breach for the opera director Keizer, who had fled his creditors to Weißenfels, and who was unable to bring out his already finished opera of the same name here because Handel received the commission to compose it in his absence. For the premiere, however, Keizer was back in Hamburg and supplemented Handel's opera with its own epilogue. The encounter with Reinhard Keizer was of decisive importance for Handel's development as a composer. Keiser's melodies and ideas accompanied him throughout his life and reappear in many of his own works. He borrowed many operas, especially Octavia (1705), and there were probably many Keizerian scores in his luggage to Italy.

After the great success of his Almira , he had his second opera on February 25, 1705, entitled Love Obtained through Blood and Murder, or: Nero, to follow. This opera only had three performances, probably because of the weak libretto, and was then canceled. While the score of this work has been lost, the surviving Almira, with its mixture of German and Italian form and language , offers an instructive example of the operatic form that prevailed at the Theater am Gänsemarkt at the time. Handel used many themes and counterpoints from his first opera in later works. With the theme Lebet delighted, he built the most blissful couple , which Almira intoned in the recitative (3rd act, scene XVIII), a little later in Italy the grandiose final chorus Gloria Patri from Dixit Dominus .

In Hamburg, in 1706, Handel composed another opera: Florindo and Daphne , but it was so large that it had to be divided into two works: The happy Florindo and The transformed Daphne . For the premiere of this double opera at the beginning of 1708, however, Handel had long been in the southern climes. Most of the music is also considered lost. After Handel had rejected offers from noble patrons to travel to Italy several times , including probably one from Ferdinando de 'Medici , he traveled to Italy in the summer or autumn of 1706 at his own expense. He left two boxes with compositions, which are lost today.

Inspired by the contrapuntal lessons of Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow and the inventive talent for melodies of Reinhard Keizer, he set out to get to know the Italian spelling.


Handel's study trip through Italy lasted four years. He made stops in Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice, among others. The exact dates of his stays in these cities are only partially known: first Florence, then from January 14th 1707 Rome, from autumn 1707 Florence, since February 1708 again Rome, end of April 1708 Naples, July 1708 Rome and sometime in 1709 Venice, Florence and again Venice. In the spring of 1710 he left for home.

Many anecdotes have come down to us from that time, such as meetings with Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Lotti as well as Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti. Handel became famous here as "Il Sassone" (the Saxon). When Domenico Scarlatti heard the masked Handel incognito playing on a harpsichord at the Venice Carnival , he is said to have exclaimed: “This is either the famous Saxon or the devil!” Mainwaring reports that there were differences of opinion between Corelli and Handel about the execution of the double dotting in the slow corner movements of the (original) French overture to Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno . Handel is said to have impatiently tore the violin out of Corelli's hand to demonstrate how he wanted this dotting to be done. Corelli, a lovely man, then said: “ Ma, caro Sassone, questa Musica è nel Stylo Francese, di ch'io non m'intendo ” (“But my dear Saxon, this your music is set up in the French style, I do don't understand me at all ”). For Corelli, Handel composed a new overture in the Italian style.

Handel staged two operas in Italy, Rodrigo (November 1707) in Florence and Agrippina (December 26, 1709) in Venice. The libretto for Agrippina was written by Vincenzo Grimani , cardinal and viceroy of Naples (1652–1710). This opera is generally considered to be the real breakthrough in Handel's operatic style. The overture to Agrippina , with the excitedly trembling fugue theme over a small hexachord , is one of Handel's most outstanding operatic overtures. For Rome, where due to warlike events and an earthquake opera performances by Pope Clement XI. were forbidden, he created two oratorios, the sacred La Resurrezione (spring 1708) and the allegorical Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (spring 1707). Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili wrote the text for Il Trionfo . Along with Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, he was an important patron and sponsor of Handel. The substance Il Trionfo edited Handel in London twice: in 1737 and most recently in 1757 as The Triumph of Time and Truth (The Triumph of Time and Truth).

In Italy, Handel also composed the famous Dixit Dominus ( Psalm 110 ), the Serenata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo (Naples 1708) and numerous choral and solo cantatas. He established his later world fame in Italy.

In 1709, in response to the sensational premiere of Agrippina in Venice , Handel received an invitation to the court of Elector Georg Ludwig of Hanover . At the same time, Charles Montagu, Earl of Manchester, invited the English court. Handel, with a letter of recommendation for Prince Karl von Neuburg in Innsbruck, first turned to Innsbruck, which he left on March 9, 1710. He reached Hanover on June 4, 1710 (certainly after a stay in Halle), and a few days later he was offered the post of Kapellmeister there for 1,500 Reichsthalers a year. He accepted the offer, but had an assurance that he would be allowed to be away from the court for longer periods of time. He soon took advantage of this option: towards the end of the year he traveled to London.

First years in London

Handel (center) with George I on a boat trip on the Thames
The Queen's Theater (from 1714 King's Theater) on Haymarket in London. Most of Handel's operas were performed here.

We do not know how long Handel wanted to stay in England, at least Mainwaring writes: "His desire was not yet satisfied and so far removed as long as there was still a musical court to be found that he had not seen." He initially stayed for a year in London and thus exhausted his vacation maximum. The Royal Theater on Haymarket (“Queen's Theater”) had just opened here five years earlier with an opera by the German Greber . That was all that London had to offer in terms of Italian opera, there was no English opera. It was at this theater that Handel achieved his first great success in England on February 24, 1711 with the premiere of his opera Rinaldo . As successful as the music was, the stage effects used were controversial, of which there were many and which critics condemned as childish and absurd. During a parable aria in which birds were the object of comparison, sparrows were allowed to fly onto the stage. From this opera comes the well-known saraband aria Lascia ch'io pianga with a theme that Handel had previously used in Almira and Il Trionfo . Along with Cleopatra's V'adoro, pupille, saette d'Amore from Julius Caesar and the Largo (actually a Larghetto) ombra mai fu from the opera Xerxes , it has been part of the standard repertoire of famous singers for almost three centuries. After the end of the opera season, Handel returned to Hanover at the beginning of June 1712, not without having accepted an invitation to the Duesseldorf court of Count Palatine Johann Wilhelm . The latter provided him with a letter of apology for Hanover, in which he regretted that he had stopped Handel. Once there, Handel wrote a series of vocal duets and “a lot of things for voices and instruments” (Mainwaring) for the Elector Princess and later Queen of the UK, Caroline von Brandenburg-Ansbach .

After only a few months, Handel asked the elector to be allowed to return to London, which he was allowed "with the condition that he would adjust himself again after a decent period" (Mainwaring). So in October 1712 he went back to London, where - apart from traveling - he spent the rest of his life and became the most famous and influential composer in the country. Handel initially lived for a year with a wealthy music lover named Andrews in Barn Elms, Surrey (now Barnes ). He lived for three more years with the Earl of Burlington in London (Piccadilly). The main works of this period are four Italian operas and the Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate commissioned by Queen Anne , after which she granted him a lifelong pension of £ 200 a year.

Although Handel greatly extended his absence from the court in Hanover, no attempt by Elector Georg to remind him of his obligation in Hanover is documented. In October 1714, the elector was crowned King of Great Britain and Ireland as George I in Westminster Abbey in London . On his behalf, Handel later composed the water music , which was probably played for the first time at a festival on the Thames in 1717. The king doubled Handel's salary. Handel later also became the music teacher of the king's daughters. (Handel later stated that he only taught Princess Anne .) In 1716 he followed the king briefly back to German soil, where he also visited his relatives in Halle and made a detour to Ansbach. Here Handel met his fellow student Johann Christoph Schmidt (1683–1763) from his university studies in Halle. He went to London with him and was his secretary, accountant and musical assistant until his death. Schmidt's son of the same name, Engl. John Christopher Smith (1712–1795), then took over this position and also distinguished himself as a composer and arranger of Handel's works, especially after his death.

During this time, Handel composed the passion Jesus martyred and dying for the sin of the world , based on a poetry by Hamburg native Barthold Heinrich Brockes, which was popular at the time . But this was only performed there in 1719. This text was also set to music by Reinhard Keizer, Johann Mattheson and Georg Philipp Telemann, and even Johann Sebastian Bach used some aria texts from it for his St. John Passion .

After his return to Great Britain, he entered the service of the Earl of Carnarvon , later Duke of Chandos , in the summer of 1717 as a house composer . A progressive group of writers, including John Gay and Alexander Pope , gathered here . Handel's works, which he composed for the ducal residence of Cannons in Edgware, include the twelve Chandos Anthems as well as the first version by Esther and the completely new English version of Acis and Galatea (text: John Gay). In Cannons, Handel probably also completed the Suites de Pièces pour le Clavecin (1st collection), self-published in 1720 , which contain, among other things, the well-known variations that were later given the name The Harmonious Blacksmith ("The Harmonious Blacksmith").

The name of the place Cannons (also Canons ) was also program: The Duke of Chandos and his circle expressed in this way that it was about the establishment of musical standards (Latin canon , Greek kanón , German canon : scale , Guideline, rule).

Bloom of the Opera

Handel's stay in Cannons ended around the spring of 1719 when preparations began for a new opera company on a subscription basis at the King's Theater , the Royal Academy of Music with Handel as musical director and the Swiss Johann Jacob Heidegger as administrative director. Handel traveled to Dresden to recruit a singing troupe , especially the castrati star Senesino , but was only partially successful: For the upcoming season he was only able to win over the soprano Margherita Durastanti , whom he already knew from Italy ( Agrippina ). Senesino did not come until a year later and stayed until the academy collapsed (1728) for a fee of £ 2,000 a year. Handel's first and very successful opera for this opera academy, Radamisto , was first performed on April 27, 1720. In addition to Handel, the academy temporarily employed the composers Giovanni Bononcini and Attilio Ariosti . The audience split into parties, either behind Handel or Bononcini. Especially in the early days, Bononcini's performances were more successful than Handel's. Handel's dominance was not felt until around the third season, and in the following years he wrote some of his most important and now most popular operas such as Giulio Cesare , Tamerlano and Rodelinda .

According to current knowledge, the Opera Academy was underfunded from the start and only financially viable in the best of times. The management tried to be successful by buying even more star singers. From January 1723, Francesca Cuzzoni was hired for an initial price of 1500 pounds per season and from May 1726 Faustina Bordoni , later wife of the Dresden court composer Johann Adolph Hasse , for an incredible 2500 pounds for the season. Both prima donnas were enemies with each other. On June 6, 1727, they cursed and beat each other, loudly cheered on by their respective supporters, during the performance on the open stage. Due to the high fees that both singers and Senesino received, the opera company was not only heavily burdened financially, but one wonders today how it could work at all, because the total budget of an opera season was determined by the Ipswich Gazette for the season 1732 / 33 stated as between 9,000 and 12,000 pounds. Even if the budget for Handel's first opera academy might have been a little higher, the £ 8,000 for the three singers and Handel had to be raised first, and the impresario, the other singers, theater rental, orchestra, set design, costumes had not yet been paid for . (Handel was paid 1,000 pounds for composing and copying an opera. He usually wrote two operas per season.) In addition, the public's taste was increasingly lighter and politically satirical in English-language musical performances, for which the resounding success of John Gays and Johann Christoph in 1728 Pepusch's The Beggar's Opera was symptomatic. The climax of the beggar opera is said to have been a parody of Handel's popular “Crusader March” from his Rinaldo - sung by “beggars”, “thieves” and “crooks”. (The opera was the model for The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill .) After the 1727/28 season, the Opera Academy was dissolved. However, Handel, who had been an English citizen since 1727, did not suffer any personal damage from the failure of the academy.

Handel was also doing well financially at the time, and his own music business was flourishing. For example, he was involved in the sale of tickets and sheet music; the pension he received from the English royal family accounted for only about a quarter of his income. Apart from the South Sea Bubble , which also caused Handel to lose a lot of money in 1721, he handled his wealth skillfully and carefully, for example by investing in government bonds from the Bank of England , and at times earned the equivalent of up to one million euros a year. During this time Handel also bought the house on Lower Brook Street (near Hanover Square), where he lived until his death.

Decline of the opera

Georg Friedrich Handel, portrait by Balthasar Denner (1733)

After the dissolution of the Opera Academy, Handel started a new company together with Johann Jacob Heidegger (this time impresario ), which is also referred to in literature as “the second Opera Academy”. They took over the Academy's fund, rented the King's Theater for five years and Handel traveled to Italy in February 1729 to recruit new singers. After the bad experiences with the extravagant concept of the first opera academy, the new ensemble was consistently more modest, among other things. with the old castrato Antonio Bernacchi as the new star, the soprano Anna Strada del Pó and Handel's old school friend from Halle, the bassist Johann Gottfried Riemschneider . On the return journey in the early summer of 1729, Handel probably visited his mother in Halle and stopped in Hanover (early June) and Hamburg.

The new opera company opened with Lotario on December 2, 1729 , but had only moderate success, so that Senesino was hired again as the train number for the next season. It was more by chance that Handel's interest was drawn to the oratorio . In 1732, his two English-speaking Masques Esther and Acis and Galatea from the Cannons era were played without authorization. Handel responded quickly to each one by creating his own new versions and performing them with success.

The next season 1732/33 he largely played oratorios. Among them was the oratorio Deborah , which was largely made of old material . In the summer, Handel traveled to Oxford with his ensemble . There he successfully premiered his oratorio Athalia at the University's Sheldonian Theater . The Hallelujah in D minor, which closes the first act, is a double fugue over the six divided solmization syllables UT-FA RE-SOL MI-LA: Handel's homage to Guido von Arezzo (~ 992-1050) hexachord system. As a counter- topic ( counter- subject ) to Arezzo's divided syllables (syllables) , Handel chose, lightly figured, the main topic (subject) of the fugue from his eighth piano suite in F minor, HWV 433.According to a press report, he was to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the university, which he refused for unknown reasons. However, the success of his Athalia in Oxford by no means prompted Handel to give up the declining Italian opera.

In December 1733 a rival opera company opened the Opera of the Nobility (the so-called aristocratic opera ) in the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theater , with Nicola Antonio Porpora as the composer. Before that, this company had poached almost all of Handel's ensemble of singers, including Senesino, only the soprano Anna Maria Strada stayed with Handel. Since there was no market for two competing opera houses in London, a ruinous competition ensued. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that at the end of the season Handel's lease expired and Heidegger rented the King's Theater to the Adelsoper. The aristocratic opera also managed to hire the famous Italian castrato Farinelli .

The two opera companies not only divided the London opera audience into two camps, but also the royal family. The Prince of Wales, Friedrich Ludwig von Hanover, sponsored the aristocratic opera. Handel's master student Princess Anne, on the other hand, passionately sided with Handel. Many years later, in Bologna in 1770, Farinelli told Charles Burney how he sang to King George II "for the first time at court" after his arrival in London . "The royal princess, who would later become the princess of Orange, accompanied him with the grand piano (ie on the harpsichord ), who demanded that he sing two of Handel's arias on paper [prima vista], in a clef and a notation which he was not used to ”. Anne's art in figured bass was mentioned in 1763 by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg in his critical letters on music . Handel himself once confided in the Hamburg-based organist Jacob Wilhelm Lustig from Groningen that for him she was “the flower of all princesses”.

Handel now moved to the newly built Covent Garden Theater and ran the opera company (the “third opera academy”) on his own and at his own financial responsibility. Despite the company's wandering, he composed works such as Ariodante and Alcina during this time , which, along with Orlando, were among the most important after the collapse of the first academy. In 1737 it went bankrupt, but the aristocratic opera also went bankrupt and had to be dissolved. Significantly, another work by the more popular “light muse” was the company's “coffin nail”: the operatic parody The Dragon of Wantley (libretto: Henry Carey ) by the German composer Johann Friedrich Lampe . Overall, it had more performances than the Beggar Opera at the time . Handel suffered a stroke with symptoms of paralysis, but recovered quickly during a spa stay in the Aachen thermal springs in Burtscheid and composed with the old productivity.

Time of the oratorios

Handel's home in London, now the Handel House Museum

Although Handel made numerous attempts to continue the opera before his last opera Deidamia in 1741, the oratorio gradually came to the fore in 1739 with Saul and Israel in Egypt . In addition, earlier works were resumed, including the Alexander's Feast or The Power of Music composed in 1736 , to which Handel added an Ode for St. Cecilia's Day in 1739 . The text for both Cäcilienoden - poems in honor of St. Cäcilia - was written by John Dryden . Dryden's Ode is considered a masterpiece of English poetry. Soon afterwards, in 1740, Handel set verses by another great English poet: L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato by John Milton . The third part, Il Moderato, was not written by Milton, but by Charles Jennens (1700–1773), the librettist of Handel's oratorios Saul , Messiah and Belshazzar .

A trip to Germany by Handel in 1740 is hardly documented. Possibly he still had plans to start a new opera company and was looking for singers; or he was at the Berlin court, as reported by the Hamburg Relations Courier , to check his professional opportunities in Germany.

In 1742 Handel stayed in Dublin, where he premiered his oratorio Messiah for the benefit of prisoners in prison and poor hospitals. The alto part was sung by Susanna Maria Cibber (1714–1766), a sister of the composer Thomas Augustin Arne , who soon after became the first actress in the theater of the famous Shakespeare actor David Garrick in London . Even later in London, Handel left the proceeds of his Messiah performances to the poor and disenfranchised. Behind the sketch of the theme for the Amen fugue, Handel noted an Irish dance melody, which he described (in German) as the “ballet” of the poor Irish boy . Once a year he performed Messiah for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital in London , of which he was honorary co-director alongside William Hogarth , the socially critical painter, graphic artist and author of the Analysis of Beauty . Shortly before his return to London, Handel met the mentally confused author of Gulliver's Travels , Jonathan Swift .

After this time, Handel no longer composed operas. Instead, there was a continuous series of one or two new oratorios per season from 1743 to 1752, most of them on themes from the Old Testament, but also the secular musical dramas Hercules and Semele , whose soprano parts, as in many works since 1737, for Handel new prima donna Elisabeth Duparc " la Francesina" were composed. Both works, although not so thought of by Handel, are now sometimes staged and viewed almost as English operas, especially since the text for Semele was purely an operatic libretto.

For some time, aristocratic circles tried to bring Handel, who had now turned completely to the oratorio, to fall. “The entire opera company is in a rage over Handel,” noted a contemporary . In contrast to the times of the aristocratic opera, he had no competition as an oratorio composer, but his opponents could give balls and banquets on the evenings of his performances to harm him. He soon reached broad sections of the population with his "victory oratorios " after the Jacobite revolt of 1745, of which Judas Maccabaeus was next to Messiah the most popular oratorio during his lifetime. For the aria of Judas Maccabaeus With honor let desert be crown'd in the third act, Handel composed an extraordinary solo for trumpet , because for his trumpet solo, for once , Handel included and brought in the seventh overtone on the natural trumpet, which is (to this day) regarded as "unnatural" with this trick the "double nature of the trumpet sound" is shown to advantage. Handel formed the minor third with the seventh overtone, whereby his “trumpet sound” permanently changes between elegiac A minor and warlike (sometimes festive) D major. In the oratorio, Handel later added the choir of the Jünglinge See, the conqu'ring Hero comes from the oratorio Joshua , whose melody later became the Advent song Daughter Zion, rejoice in Germany ( EG 13).

In 1745, the Leipzig Corresponding Society of Musical Sciences , founded in 1738 by the doctor, mathematician and musicologist Lorenz Christoph Mizler , awarded Handel an honorary membership. The members also included Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach. ( Leopold Mozart was to become the last member around 1755 , after which the society dissolved.)

The last decade

In the summer of 1750 he made another trip to Germany for an unknown reason, not without having written his will beforehand. On this trip, his carriage had an accident in Holland and, according to the General Adviser, Handel was seriously injured .

In 1751 Handel began to compose the oratorio Jephta . During the writing the first symptoms of the incipient blindness appeared - in the final chorus of the second act it says: “ How dark, O Lord, are thy decrees ”. At this point, Handel had to interrupt his work and wrote in the score in German: “We came here on February 13th, 1751, prevented because of relaxation of the face of my left eye. so relax't. ”In the further course this choir closes with Alexander Pope's maxim from the Essay on Man (1734):“ Whatever is, is right. “This soon became the subject of fierce ideological debates in Germany, in which Moses Mendelssohn and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing also took part. Later, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel took over Pope's maxim and put it in the words: “Everything that is is reasonable” - reinterpreted by Hegel's student Heinrich Heine as “Everything that is reasonable must be”. With many interruptions and with great exertion, Handel was able to complete his work months later.

In 1754 Handel was finally able to thank his lifelong friend Telemann, a flower lover, with a box of exotic plant bulbs (albeit belatedly, he had been informed by mistake of the death of his Hamburg colleague). Handel thanked him for the interval teaching New Musical System which Telemann had sent him in advance in 1750 and which appeared in Mizler's musical library in 1752 . Here Telemann divides every tone, every interval four times into minimum , minor , major and maximum . His new musical system , however, met with sharp rejection from his contemporaries, because with the advent of the fortepiano, the tempered mood was favored. Incidentally, Handel had used this four-fold subdivision selectively in his Italian cantatas written 1706–1709 and in the oratorio Il Trionfo (in the aria Io sperai ).

Handel underwent several unsuccessful eye operations, one of them by the controversial oculist ( star engraver ) John Taylor (1703–1772), who also operated on Johann Sebastian Bach's eyes. In Taylor's History of the Travels and Adventures , published in London in 1761, there is a section on his medical encounters with Bach and Handel. In it Taylor noted that both composers "were initially brought up together". This statement by Taylor has met with violent opposition from the Bach and Handel biographers for centuries.

There is evidence that Handel was able to see again at times during his final years, but after May 1752 he practically did not regain his eyesight. Nevertheless, he continued to participate in the performances of his oratorios and played his organ concertos between acts, some of which he improvised. He also composed new arias or revised older ones. His faithful John Christopher Smith (the younger), who was his pupil and who also directed the performances of the oratorios in the last years of his life, helped him with the writing (he also left his scores to him). For Judas Maccabaeus he composed the duet and choral movement Sion now her head shall raise . A week before his death, Handel was sitting at the organ at a performance of his Messiah .

In April 1759, Handel had planned a spa stay in Bath, but this never happened. On the morning of April 14, 1759, a Holy Saturday, Handel died at the age of 74 in his apartment at 57 Brook Street (now 25). He left - depending on the conversion - two to six million euros invested in securities. On April 20th he was buried in Westminster Abbey in London . His request for a silent funeral was not granted: 3,000 mourners are said to have been present.



Autograph of the opera Tolomeo , 1728

From the fifth opera Rodrigo onwards, Handel's 42 operas follow the type of opera seria (or, as he himself calls it, “Dramma per musica”), which consists of a series of secco recitatives and da capo arias . Over time, he continued to develop the opera without breaking with the established form. In order to portray particularly intense emotional states of a character, Handel increasingly uses the Accompagnato (recitative accompanied by the orchestra), for example for the big death scene of Bajazet in Tamerlano or the famous madness scene in Orlando .

In addition to arias, there are duets and, more rarely, trios or quartets. At first, Handel wrote choirs only for the finals, where they are sung by the protagonists. Only from 1735 does he seem to have had an independent opera choir. In the same year he wrote ballet numbers for the operas Alcina and Ariodante played in Covent Garden , because the ballet company there with Marie Sallé as prima ballerina and choreographer was available to him. ( Voltaire was one of her admirers.) Handel composed the Terpsichore especially for her as a prologue to the second version of Il pastor fido . Marie Sallé, who revolutionized stage dance even before Jean-Georges Noverre , triggered a theatrical scandal with her appearance in Handel's magical opera Alcina : In it, she danced the male role of Cupid only lightly and was whistled for it on the open stage.

Handel's opera overtures follow the French type influenced by Lully : slow - fast ( fugal ) - slow. The libretti are often derived from Venetian models; Despite the general popularity of the Metastasio texts, Handel only used libretti by this poet three times.


Even during his time as a composer of Italian operas, Handel developed a new art form: the English oratorio.

The oratorio was previously unknown in England. On the continent it was based on the rigid scheme of the opera seria with its monotonous sequence of recitative-like action and often long da capo arias. There are hardly any ensembles and choirs. Using elements of the English plays, masques and anthems , the classical French drama, the German church cantata as well as the characteristic musical form of the Italian opera ( overture , recitatives and arias , division into three acts), Handel creates a new major form of musical drama, which is based on the Stage is detached. The theater continues to provide the outer framework, but scenic play, costumes, masks, etc. are omitted. This enables sudden changes of scene and affect. The course of action is now shifted exclusively to the listener's imagination, and the ideal and sensual content of a work is intensified accordingly. The choir is now not only integrated, but becomes the essential link and carrier of the action. As a result, the oratorio has an epic-lyrical character without losing its dramatic quality. Librettist and composer assign two roles to the choir: the role of the one directly involved in the action and, based on the ancient model, the role of the observer and commentator. The fate and deeds of the people involved unfold against the backdrop of popular life. Whole peoples are personified. In Belshazzar even three peoples are juxtaposed. The castrato hero is (as good as) banned, but the tenor, who has so far mainly acted as a villain in the opera, takes on the role of the hero. Handel performs his oratorios under his own direction and opens the gates to a new, bourgeois audience.

Church music

Handel's church music is divided into some psalm settings in Latin, which he wrote in Italy, and the pieces in English. The Latin works include the Vesper psalms Dixit Dominus , Laudate pueri and Nisi Dominus . The Chandos Anthems , created in the early London period, are of a rather intimate character, corresponding to the small ensemble available. The other church music works from the London era were mostly written for the Chapel Royal for special, sometimes political, events. The Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate to celebrate the Peace of Utrecht are shaped by Purcell's influence. Of the four Coronation Anthems , composed for the coronation of George II and Queen Caroline in Westminster Abbey in 1727, Zadok the Priest has been played at every British coronation ceremony since then, most recently on June 2, 1953 on the occasion of the coronation of Elizabeth II. The piece is also known as the theme tune of the UEFA Champions League (“ UEFA Champions League anthem ”). The Funeral Anthem ( The ways of Zion do mourn ) was composed by Handel in 1737 for the state funeral of Queen Caroline and the Dettinger Te Deum with the Dettingen Anthem in 1743 to celebrate the victory in the Battle of Dettingen .

Orchestral music

An important part of Handel's orchestral music was written for his operas and oratorios, namely as overtures, inter-act and ballet music. The independently published concerts include the six Concerti grossi op. 3, which were published in 1734 but were written much earlier on different occasions, as well as the twelve Concerti grossi op. 6 from 1739. Handel's Concerti grossi op. 6 are orchestral works with an interplay between full string orchestra ( Ripieno ) and a string soloist group ( Concertino ). Corelli was the pioneer for this form, which originated in Italy. In his concerts, Handel combines Italian tradition with the new symphonic developments of the 18th century. In retrospect, Handel added oboe parts to a number of concerti grossi.

Handel's organ concertos are his own invention and, along with Bach's harpsichord concerts, are at the beginning of the development of the concert for keyboard instrument and orchestra. Handel usually played his organ concerts during the breaks in large oratorios on a positive organ that was specially built for him . In the printed edition of 1738 the harpsichord and the harp (op. 4 no. 6) were also mentioned as possible solo instruments. Compared to the six concertos op.4 (published 1738), the two from the Second Series (published 1740, the first with the surname The Cuckoo and the Nightingale ) and the six posthumously published concertos op.7 are distinguished by the fact that many passages and Whole movements were marked as “ ad libitum ”, which means that Handel played ex tempore during the performances . For the Concerto Op. 7 No. 1, with a mighty ostinato movement , Handel prescribes a two-manual organ with pedal ("Organo a. 2 Clav. E Pedals").

In 1747 and 1748 Handel wrote three Concerti a due cori , in which he actually divided the orchestra into three, namely two wind choirs and a string choir with basso continuo . These concerts are for the most part not independent compositions, but were arranged by Handel from choirs of the oratorios Esther , Belshazzar , Semele and Messiah and played as inter-act music in his oratorio performances.

Are designed as open-air music, the three suites of Water Music ( Water Music ) for boat trips on the Thames (1717) and Music for the Royal Fireworks ( Fireworks Music ) (1749). The latter was commissioned by King George II on the occasion of the Peace of Aachen concluded on October 7, 1748 , and premiered on April 27, 1749 in London's Green Park . In the run-up to the orchestra, there were disputes between the king and Handel. Because the king wanted only "military instruments" (oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani) to be used. Handel, on the other hand, insisted on the participation of string instruments. Today it is no longer possible to say with certainty who of the two ultimately prevailed. The fact remains that Handel designed his score exclusively for wind instruments and timpani, but later noted that additional strings had to double the oboe and bassoon parts. The public rehearsal of the fireworks music with 100 musicians in front of an audience of 12,000 on April 21 in Vauxhall Gardens was a great success. The actual event, however, the official ceremony on April 27 in Green Park, ended in disaster. Due to the technical failure of the fireworks, the buildings and decorations erected especially for the fireworks to celebrate the Peace of Aachen caught fire and burned down. Only Handel's music is said to have saved the honor of that day.

Chamber music

The six trio sonatas op. 2 for two violins and basso continuo were first published by Roger in Amsterdam around 1722. They consistently correspond to the four-movement Italian form of the church sonata . Another seven trio sonatas op. 5 for two violins and basso continuo were published in London in 1739. These have five to seven movements, including dance movements such as Passacaille , Sarabande , Gavotte , so that they come close to the suite form . Three other trio sonatas have only survived in manuscripts. The 15 solo sonatas op. 1, which were also first published by Roger in Amsterdam around 1722, also correspond to the church sonata form. They are divided into three sonatas for transverse flute, four sonatas for recorder, two sonatas for oboe and six sonatas for violin, each with a continuo accompaniment. (The Halle Handel Edition still contains six trio sonatas for two oboes and basso continuo from the beginning of 1700. It is now considered certain that Handel was not the author of these sonatas.)

Handel's publications for the harpsichord are based on copies of some of his pieces that were circulated and that he may have used in the course of his teaching. Because he wanted to curb the spread of imprecise and falsified copies, he published the eight Suites de Pièces pour le Clavecin in 1720 . In 1733 a second collection followed with nine suites under the same title and also 6 fugues (1735). Other occasional works have come down to us in handwriting or copies. The second suite collection contains a remarkable Chaconne (G major) over an eight-bar basso ostinato that goes back to Henry Purcell . Gottlieb Muffat also used this in his Componimenti musicali - and Bach for his Goldberg Variations and for the Canon triplex a. 6 Voc. , a canon of riddles that he is holding in his hand in the famous portrait of Elias Gottlob Haußmann .

In his work The Perfect Kapellmeister , which appeared in Hamburg in 1739, Johann Mattheson used almost 1¼ bars (bars 3–4) from the fourth movement - the final fugue - of Handel's piano suite No. 2 in F major (from Suites de Pièces from 1720) printed. In addition to his quotation, Mattheson, who certainly had a deeper insight into Handel's compositional principles, asked his readership the following question: “Who would think that in these few notes, other than a thick, short gold wire, a thread would be hidden that is a hundred times as long lets pull? ”With“ Golddrat ”(gold wire) Mattheson means Handel's fugue theme ( subject ) with his counter- theme ( counter- subject ).

For chamber music were among Handel's time, both vocal and instrumental pieces. His secular cantatas are numerous: 72 for solo voice and basso continuo, which consist of a sequence of arias and recitatives in which he was based on Alessandro Scarlatti . Then there are the cantatas con stromenti , that is, with independent instrumental parts. This includes the small Spanish cantata ( Cantata Spagnuola ) Nò se emenderá jamas , HWV 140, for soprano, guitar and basso continuo, which Handel recorded with sheet music in the old style. Most of the secular cantatas are assigned to the time in Rome, when Handel met the Scarlattis, Corelli and Pasquini at the Accademia degli Arcadi .

The nine German arias for solo voice, melody instrument and basso continuo from Barthold Heinrich Brockes ' natural lyric collection of poems, Earthly Pleasure in God, date to around 1724–26 . Brockes, who with "poetic transfiguration" ensured the spread of scientific knowledge, had a lasting influence on Christoph Martin Wieland and Johann Wolfgang Goethe . My soul hears in sight is one of the German arias . With these arias Handel set a German text for the last time.

Duets and trios for voices and figured bass were written in Italy or Hanover and between 1741 and 1745 in London. They follow the example of the works by Agostino Steffani , which Handel had met in Hanover, which are regarded as models of the genre . Handel expanded some duets and trios for his oratorios into four-part choirs.

Handel's orchestra

For today's interpreters of Handel's operas and oratorios, the traditional information about the size of the instrument groups in the orchestra under Handel's direction and the way in which they are to be played are of great importance. We know the line-up for the performance of La Resurrezione from Italy, where Handel had no influence on the structure of the orchestra in the Ruspoli house : 2 trumpets, 4 oboes, 23 violins (led by the concertmaster Corelli), 4 violas, 6 cellos and 6 Double basses. The further details are puzzling, as 1 small bass violin is also mentioned (possibly the viola da gamba required in the score is meant) and a trombone. Flutes are not mentioned, but were, as usual, played by the oboists.

The composition of the London Opera Orchestra was now entirely in Handel's hands. A protocol of the Duke of Portland from 1720 lists the following 34 musicians: 1 trumpet, 4 oboes, 3 bassoons, 17 violins, 2 violas, 4 cellos, 2 double basses, 1 theorbo. In 1727, the composer from the Berlin court, Johann Joachim Quantz , who was in London, mentioned that the orchestra "consisted for the most part of Germans, a few Italians, and a few English countries". "Castrucci, an Italian violinist, was the leader" (Burney). In 1728, the French Fourgeroux noted in his English travelogue the cast of an opera performance in the King's Theater: 24 violins and violas (led by the Castrucci brothers ), 3 cellos, 2 double basses, 1 lute, 2 harpsichords. As for the winds, he only mentioned that they occasionally played flutes and trumpets. He has completely forgotten the oboes and bassoons. He made fun of the fact that in the recitatives the chords were only played "discontinued", which he certainly did not know from his homeland. He also reports that only one violoncello, the two harpsichords and the lute played there. From the premiere of the Orlando in 1733, Sir John Clark of Penicuick reports that he was surprised by the number of instrumental virtuosos, and counts 2 oboes, 4 bassoons, more than 24 violins, 4 cellos, 2 large viols (double basses), 2 harpsichords and one theorbo on. He in turn complains that the orchestra was too loud and partially drowned out the voices. From around 1733-1745 Francisco Caporale was principal cellist in Handel's orchestra. He played a five-string violoncello, and many of Handel's solos for violoncello during this period are tailored to this instrument.

We have the last clues from 1750 with the received sheet music for the performances of the Messiah at that time: 4 oboes, 4 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, 14 violins (8 "first" and 6 "second"), 6 violas , 3 cellos and 2 double basses.


Handel Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey, 1784

Handel enjoyed the rank of classic in England during his lifetime. In 1738, a life-size monument created by Roubiliac was erected in his honor in Vauxhall Gardens . On July 15, 1762, the funeral monument designed by Roubiliac Handel was unveiled in Westminster Abbey. Mainwaring's Memoirs of the Life of the Late George Frederic Handel (translated into German by Mattheson), published in 1760, is considered to be the very first musician biography. In contrast to many composers of his era, such as Johann Sebastian Bach or Georg Philipp Telemann in Germany, Handel did not fall into oblivion after his death in England. However, his permanent presence in English musical life was based primarily on his oratorios, especially the Messiah .

In addition to regular excerpts from his oratorios, several pasticci composed from Handel's music were played. To celebrate Handel's 100th birthday, 1784 (they had made a mistake by a year, because in the year Handel was born the Julian calendar was still in force in England, according to which the year only began on March 25, while in Germany before 1700 the year usually began with the December 25th) with over 500 musicians a three-day memorial service was held in Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon , with performances of the Messiah , pieces from the other oratorios and orchestral music. Because of its success, the Messiah performance was repeated twice. This commemoration established a tradition that was continued until 1791 and assumed increasingly gigantic proportions: in the last year, over 1000 musicians were hired.

The enthusiasm for the Messiah soon reached Germany. In 1772 it was conducted for the first time by Michael Arne during a guest performance in Hamburg, and three years later by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach , the second eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. After Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock had finished his verse-epic The Messiah in 1773 , his German translation of Handel's work was published in 1775. Johann Adam Hiller was the first to completely re-orchestrate and change the piece for Berlin in 1786.

In Vienna, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart expanded and changed the instrumentation of four oratorical works, including that of the Messiah , for the concerts of Baron Gottfried van Swieten between 1788 and 1790 , in order to adapt them to contemporary tastes. In doing so, however, he was much more respectful of Handel's original than Hiller had before. In addition, in his (unfinished) Requiem in 1791, Mozart processed themes and contrapuntal condensations from Handel's Funeral Anthem , the Dettingen Anthem and the Messiah ( And with his stripes ).

When Haydn heard Handel's oratorios during his stay in London, he was deeply touched: He felt “as if he had been put back to the beginning of his studies and had known nothing up to then” (based on Giuseppe Carpani). He brought a libretto with him to Vienna, which may have been written for Handel, and then composed The Creation , an oratorio whose structure and choral fugues were clearly influenced by Handel. Similarly, let Beethoven inspired by Handel. He wrote variations for cello and piano (1796) to the melody of See, the conqu'ring Hero comes . The overture The Consecration of the House with its large central fugue is deliberately modeled after Handel's style.

In the 1770s the Messiah came to the USA and, following the English tradition, was performed mainly for charity purposes. In the first half of the 19th century, the tradition established itself there to perform it in the run-up to Christmas.

The Handel monument in Halle (Saale) , Hermann Heidel , 1859
Postage stamp from the Deutsche Bundespost (1959) on the 200th anniversary of death and the inauguration of the Beethoven Hall
Stamp pad of the GDR for the 300th birthday (1985)

From 1812 Ignaz von Mosel arranged several Handel oratorios for performances in large cast in Vienna, e. B. “Timothy or the power of music” (1812) and “ Samson ” (1814). He also compiled scores for two masses from pieces of music by Handel for the Viennese court orchestra , based on movements from “ Athalia ” (B flat major, 1818) and from the “ Chandos Anthems ” (D major, 1820) by using the Latin Mass texts from Handel's music are underlaid. In the 1830s a copy of the score of the Mass in D major came from Vienna to Dresden , so that it could be performed in the Catholic Court Church in Dresden in 1836 and 1840 . On December 25, 2018, this fair was staged again in Dresden.

From 1842 Vincent Novello made a narrow selection of oratorios accessible in inexpensive piano reductions in England. If the only complete edition by Samuel Arnold was unwieldy until then , the sheet music (the price of which did not exceed the empty sheet music) could now also spread in the choir associations of the provinces.

On a monumental scale, the Handel Festival was held in London (after a rehearsal in 1857) from 1859 to 1926 at three-year intervals at the Crystal Palace . At its peak, around 4,000 choirs and around 500 orchestra musicians took part. In this form, the event developed into a demonstration of English national pride.

In Germany, realized on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Handel with a great joint action by the Germans and the British one Handel Monument in the birthplace of the German-British Baroque composer and built it big staged there in the marketplace relative to its baptistery ; Franz Liszt took part in the celebrations .

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy not only wrenched the work of Johann Sebastian Bach from oblivion with his memorable revival of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829, he also ensured that Handel's oratorios were performed in Germany. Mendelssohn himself arranged some of Handel's oratorios for practical use. Georg Gottfried Gervinus translated the English texts of all of Handel's oratorios, which could thus become the standard repertoire of the German choral associations. And Johannes Brahms wrote piano parts ( figured bass expositions) for the first complete German edition of Handel for the loose vocal duets and terzets that Chrysander had summarized under the title Duetti e Terzetti .

Since 1914 anti-Semitism in Germany covered Handel's work by “ Aryanizing ” his oratorios : Israel in Egypt was renamed Mongolensturm , and Judas Maccabaeus - initially renamed Der Feldherr - only came under the title Wilhelm von Nassau from 1933 to 1945 for the performance.

On the other hand, it was left to Germany to revive Handel's completely forgotten operas. From 1920 the art historian Oskar Hagen brought several of them to the stage in Göttingen . Its German versions quickly spread to theaters across the country.

In 1942, The Great Handel was a British film biography in which Wilfrid Lawson took on the role of Handel.

By 1985, most of Handel's operas had never appeared on record. In 2016, all surviving operas are available on CD.

Currently, Handel is maintained Tonschaffen in Germany in addition to concerts and theater performances at three festivals: the International Handel Festival Göttingen (from Oskar Hagen's opera of the 1920s created), then in 1952 in Handel's birthplace from GMD Horst-Tanu Margraf initiated Handel Festival Halle ( In 1922, 1929, 1935 and 1948 there were already four forerunners for the annual festival) and the Karlsruhe Handel Festival , which has been organized by the Badisches Staatstheater since 1985 in close cooperation with the Handel Society and the International Handel Academy .

In the meantime there are performances of Handel's operas and staged productions of his oratorios all over the world (which Handel, apart from the world premiere of Messiah , did not stage, but always on a theater stage). This impressively demonstrates the relevance of his works for today's music theater , as well as contemporary reflections, e.g. B. the dance opera Rituale by Heike Hennig and her ensemble in Leipzig in February 2009, a homage to the 250th anniversary of the composer's death.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod honor Handel together with Johann Sebastian Bach and Heinrich Schütz with a memorial day on July 28th, the anniversary of Bach's death.


Handel presents every editor with particular difficulties. Its changes, additions and adaptations to changed performance conditions mean that there are a multitude of possible variants for almost every work. The Halle Handel Edition has set itself the goal of reconstructing all versions of a work. There is no final version. This gives the performer the opportunity to choose between the different versions. The problem with chamber music is that several publications were not authorized by Handel and in some cases were compiled by the publisher himself and supplemented with spurious works. In the meantime, however, the fake works have been identified and the findings explained in modern editions.

The first attempt at a complete edition of Handel's works took place between 1787 and 1797 by Samuel Arnold in London. 36 volumes were published, but then it was canceled prematurely because subscribers dropped out and died, so that almost all operas and most of the vocal chamber music are missing. An edition based on autographs operated by the English Handel Society between 1843 and 1858 was discontinued after barely more than twelve larger choral works.

The complete edition in 94 volumes that Friedrich Chrysander  published from 1858 onwards - initially under the umbrella of the German Handel Society he co-founded in Leipzig - must be considered a pioneering achievement . Chrysander used Handel's conducting scores (the so-called "directional scores"), but only partially on the autographs. There were also six supplementary volumes with compositions by other composers whose materials Handel used. Only one volume of the complete edition and two supplementary volumes were added by Max Seiffert in 1902, another (No. 49) never appeared.

In 1955, the Georg Friedrich Handel Society in Halle began with an edition for practical use that was to supplement the Chrysander edition. It was soon discovered that this no longer met modern musicological requirements, as there were no variants or reasons for the editing decisions; so that in 1958 it was decided to compile a new complete edition with a critical report - the Halle Handel Edition (HHA). The work is expected to be completed by 2023. As part of the HHA, the Handel Works Directory (HWV) compiled by Bernd Baselt was published in 1978 in the Handel Handbook .

List of works (selection)


HWV title premiere place libretto comment
1 The change of luck obtained in crowns, or: Almira, Queen of Castile January 8, 1705 Opera at the Gänsemarkt, Hamburg FC Feustking , after G. Pancieri
2 The love obtained through blood and murder, or: Nero February 25, 1705 Opera at the Gänsemarkt, Hamburg FC Feustking Lost music
3 The happy Florindo January 1708 Opera at the Gänsemarkt, Hamburg H. Hinsch Lost music
4th The transformed Daphne February 1708 Opera at the Gänsemarkt, Hamburg H. Hinsch Lost music
5 Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria (“Rodrigo”) Fall 1707 Teatro del Cocomero, Florence after F. Silvani :
Il duello d'amore e di vendetta
6th Agrippina December 26, 1709 Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo , Venice V. Grimani
7a / b Rinaldo February 24, 1711 Queen's Theater, Haymarket , London G. Rossi , after A. Hill , after T. Tasso : La Gerusalemme Liberata
8a / b / c Il pastor fido November 22, 1712 Queen's Theater, Haymarket, London G. Rossi , after GB Guarini
9 Teseo January 10, 1713 Queen's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after P. Quinault : Thésée
10 Lucio Cornelio Silla June 2, 1713? Burlington House or Queen's Theater, Haymarket, London G. Rossi
11 Amadigi di Gaula May 25, 1715 King's Theater, Haymarket , London NF Haym , after AH de la Motte : Amadis de Grèce
12a / b Radamisto April 27, 1720 King's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after D. Lalli :
L'amor tirannico, o Zenobia
13 Il Muzio Scevola April 15, 1721 King's Theater, Haymarket, London PA Rolli , after S. Stampiglia only 3rd act by Handel
(1st act: F. Amadei;
2nd act: G. Bononcini )
14th Il Floridante December 9, 1721 King's Theater, Haymarket, London PA Rolli , after F. Silvani :
La costanza in trionfo
15th Ottone, re di Germania January 12, 1723 King's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after SB Pallavicino : Teofane
16 Flavio, re de 'Longobardi May 14, 1723 King's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after M. Noris:
Flavio Cuniberto
17th Giulio Cesare in Egitto February 20, 1724 King's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after GF Bussani
18th Tamerlano October 31, 1724 King's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after A. Piovene : Tamerlano & Il Bajazete ,
after N. Pradon: Tamerlan
19th Rodelinda, regina de 'Langobardi February 13, 1725 King's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after A. Salvi ,
after P. Corneille : Pertharite
20th Publio Cornelio Scipione March 12, 1726 King's Theater, Haymarket, London PA Rolli , after A. Salvi
21st Alessandro May 5, 1726 King's Theater, Haymarket, London PA Rolli , after O. Mauro:
La superbia d'Alessandro
22nd Admeto, re di Tessaglia January 31, 1727 King's Theater, Haymarket, London O. Mauro, after A. Aureli : L'Antigona delusa da Alceste
23 Riccardo I., re d'Inghilterra November 11, 1727 King's Theater, Haymarket, London PA Rolli , after F. Briani:
Isacio tiranno
24 Siroe, re di Persia February 17, 1728 King's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after Pietro Metastasio
25th Tolomeo, re di Egitto April 30, 1728 King's Theater, Haymarket, London NF Haym , after CS Capece : Tolomeo e Alessandro
26th Lotario December 2, 1729 King's Theater, Haymarket, London G. Rossi , after A. Salvi : Adelaide
27 Partenope February 24, 1730 King's Theater, Haymarket, London after S. Stampiglia
28 Poro, re dell'Indie February 2, 1731 King's Theater, Haymarket, London after Pietro Metastasio :
Alessandro nell'Indie
29 Ezio January 15, 1732 King's Theater, Haymarket, London after Pietro Metastasio
30th Sosarme, re di Media February 15, 1732 King's Theater, Haymarket, London after A. Salvi :
Dionisio, rè di Portogallo
31 Orlando January 27, 1733 King's Theater, Haymarket, London after CS Capece , after L. Ariosto : Orlando furioso
32 Arianna in Creta January 26, 1734 King's Theater, Haymarket, London Libretto: after P. Pariati : Arianna e Teseo
A11 Oreste ( pasticcio ) December 18, 1734 Theater Royal, Covent Garden , London G. Rossi , after GB Guarini
33 Ariodante January 8, 1735 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London after A. Salvi : Ginevra, Principessa di Scozia , after L. Ariosto : Orlando furioso
34 Alcina April 16, 1735 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London after A. Fanzaglia: L'isola di Alcina , after L. Ariosto :
Orlando furioso
35 Atalanta May 12, 1736 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London after B. Valeriano: La caccia in Etolia
36 Arminio January 12, 1737 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London after A. Salvi
37 Giustino February 16, 1737 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London after N. Beregani and P. Pariati
38 Berenice, regina d'Egitto May 18, 1737 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London after A. Salvi
39 Faramondo January 3, 1738 King's Theater, Haymarket, London after A. Zeno
40 Serse (German title: Xerxes) April 15, 1738 King's Theater, Haymarket, London after N. Minato and S. Stampiglia
A 14 Giove in Argo ( pasticcio ) May 1, 1739 King's Theater, Haymarket, London after AM Lucchini
41 Imeneo November 22, 1740 Theater Royal, Lincoln's Inn Fields , London after S. Stampiglia
42 Deidamia January 10, 1741 Theater Royal, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London PA Rolli


HWV title premiere place
46a / b Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno /
Il trionfo del Tempo e della Verità
June 1707 /
March 23, 1737
Collegio Clementino , Rome /
Theater Royal, Covent Garden , London
47 La Resurrezione April 8, 1708 Palazzo Bonelli, Rome
Jesus tortured and dying for the sin of the world  (Brockes Passion)
March 23 or April 3, 1719 Cathedral Church , Hamburg
50a / b Esther (Haman and Mordecai)  probably August 23, 1720 Cannons residence near London
51 Deborah February 21, 1733 King's Theater, Haymarket , London
52 Athalia July 10, 1733 Sheldonian Theater , Oxford
53 Saul January 16, 1739 King's Theater, Haymarket, London
54 Israel in Egypt (Exodus) April 4, 1739 King's Theater, Haymarket, London
55 L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato February 27, 1740 Theater Royal, Lincoln's Inn Fields , London
56 The Messiah April 13, 1742 New Music Hall, Dublin
57 Samson February 18, 1743 Theater Royal, Covent Garden , London
58 Semele February 10, 1744 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
59 Joseph and his Brethren March 2, 1744 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
60 Hercules January 5, 1745 King's Theater, Haymarket, London
61 Belshazzar March 27, 1745 King's Theater, Haymarket, London
62 To Occasional Oratorio February 14, 1746 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
63 Judas Maccabaeus April 1, 1747 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
64 Joshua March 9, 1748 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
65 Alexander Baloos March 23, 1748 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
66 Susanna February 10, 1749 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
67 Solomon March 17, 1749 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
68 Theodora March 16, 1750 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
69 The Choice of Hercules March 1, 1751 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
70 Jephtha February 26, 1752 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London
71 The Triumph of Time and Truth March 11, 1757 Theater Royal, Covent Garden, London

Cantatas, anthems and hymns

HWV title Emergence place libretto comment
122 Apollo e Dafne 1709-10 Venice, Hanover Ovid's Metamorphoses ? Cantata drammatica
264 The ways of Zion do mourn December 17, 1737 London, Westminster Abbey Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline
246-256 Chandos Anthems 1717-18 London Psalms
258 Coronation Anthems October 11, 1727 London Coronation hymns for George II.
265 Dettinger Anthem November 27, 1743 London, Westminster Abbey Psalm 20:21
268 Foundling Hospital Anthem May 27, 1749 London Psalms 8, 41, 72, 112

Serenatas, Odes and Masques (selection)

HWV title premiere place
49a / b Acis and Galatea Summer 1718 Cannons residence near London
72 Aci, Galatea e Polifemo July 19, 1708 Naples
73 Il Parnasso in Festa March 13, 1734 King's Theater, Haymarket , London
74 Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne February 6, 1713 Royal Court in London
75 Alexander's Feast or The Power of Musick  February 19, 1736 King's Theater, Haymarket, London
76 Ode for St. Cecilia's Day November 22, 1739 Theater Royal, Lincoln's Inn Fields , London

“Te Deum” scoring

HWV title premiere place
278 Utrecht Te Deum July 7, 1713 St Paul's Cathedral in London
279 Utrecht Jubilate July 7, 1713 St Paul's Cathedral in London
280 Caroline Te Deum probably September 26, 1714 Royal Chapel, St. James's Palace, London
281 Chandos Te Deum 1717/1718 St. Lawrence's Church, Cannons
282 Te Deum in A major probably January 16, 1726 Royal Chapel, St. James's Palace, London
283 Dettinger Te Deum November 27, 1743 Royal Chapel, St. James's Palace, London

Instrumental music

  • Six Organ Concerts No. 1–6, Op. 4 (HWV 289–294)
  • Six Organ Concerts No. 7–12, Op. 7 (HWV 306–311)
  • Four organ concerts No. 13–16 (HWV 295, 296a, 304, 305a)
  • Six Concerti grossi op. 3 (HWV 312–317)
  • Twelve Concerti grossi op. 6 (HWV 319–330)
  • Three Concerti a due cori (HWV 332–334)
  • Water Music ( Wassermusik , HWV 348–350)
  • Music for the Royal Fireworks ( Fireworks Music , HWV 351)
  • Six individually survived instrumental works (HWV 318 Alexanderfest concert , HWV 336, 337, 338, 404 and 424)
  • Eight piano suites "Suites de pièce pour le clavecin Vol. 1" (HWV 426-433)
  • Nine piano suites "Suites de pièce pour le clavecin Vol. 2" (HWV 434-442)

See also



  • Georg Friedrich Handel: Masterpieces ● 40 hours MP3 , DVD-ROM, Aretinus Gesellschaft für Musikarchivierung mbH, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-939107-15-8 .

Individual evidence

  1. Since in Central Germany baptism traditionally took place one day after the birth, Handel's birthday was most likely February 23, 1685, but - since the Gregorian calendar was not introduced in Halle until 1700 - after the Julian date. The date in the baptismal register is preceded by the astronomical symbol for Tuesday; Handel's baptism day, February 24th July / March 6, 1685 greg. was a Tuesday. Cf.Handel-Haus Halle: Baptism entry for Georg Friedrich Händel 1685 in the baptismal register of the Ober-Pfarr-Kirche zu Our Dear Women ( Memento from May 19, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ^ Georg Friedrich Handel, Hedwig Müller von Azow, John Mainwaring: Biography, Letters and Writings. Georg Olms Verlag, 1977 ( at Google Books ).
  3. Frauen Zimmer Story (s) June 4, 2014 ( Memento from October 19, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  4. ^ Georg Philipp Telemann: Autobiography , ed. by Johann Mattheson, p. 358 ( at Wikisource .)
  5. Christopher Hogwood: Handel. Insel Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-458-34355-5 , p. 31.
  6. John Mainwaring: GFHändel, after Johann Mattheson German edition of 1761 ... Atlantis Music-Verlag, Zurich 1987, 65th
  7. ^ British Citizen by Act of Parliament: George Frideric Handel ( memento of March 29, 2016 in the Internet Archive ),
  8. ^ A b c Mark C. Schneider: Baroque music entrepreneur. In: Handelsblatt . April 14, 2009 (No. 71), p. 13.
  9. In the 18th century the harpsichord was designated as wings, while the still quite new fortepiano in the 18th century as a fortepiano or pianoforte was known. See: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach : Attempt on the true way of playing the piano , first part, Berlin 1753 and second part, Berlin 1762. Facsimile -new edition by Bärenreiter, Kassel et al., 1994. Examples: 1st part, introduction: § 13, p. 9; and § 15, pp. 10-11; 2nd part, introduction, § 1, p. 1; and § 6, p. 2. / see also keyword: "Flügel, Clavicimbel." In: Heinrich Christoph Kochs: "Musical Lexicon." Frankfurt 1802, pp. 586-588.
  10. This theater burned down completely in 1808. The Augsburgische Ordinari Postzeitung (AOP) reports that a number of "unprinted original pieces by Handel and other great composers" were destroyed. See AOP, Nro. 253, Freytag, October 21, 1808, p. 1, as digitized version .
  11. Burney, Charles: A general history of music:… Vol. 4 , London 1789, p. 373, reprint of the Cambridge Library Collection, 2011, ISBN 978-1-108-01642-1 .
  12. ^ Charles Burney: A general history of music:… Vol. 4. London 1789, p. 669, Reprint of the Cambridge Library Collection, 2011, ISBN 978-1-108-01642-1 .
  13. See ( memento from December 23, 2012 in the web archive ).
  14. See
  15. Gerhard Poppe: Program for the performance of the mass on December 25, 2018 in the Catholic Court Church in Dresden
  16. Paul Ingendaay : Arias were only available as a concession , in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung No. 13/2016 of January 16, 2016, p. 12
  17. See
  18. July 28th in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  19. ^ Anthony Hicks:  Handel [Handel, Hendel], George Frideric [Georg Friederich]. In: Grove Music Online (English; subscription required).
  20. Hans Joachim Marx : Handel's Oratorios, Odes and Serenatas: a compendium , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1998, ISBN 3-525-27815-2 , p. 85.

Web links

Commons : Georg Friedrich Händel  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Georg Friedrich Handel  - Sources and full texts
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on July 14, 2005 .