Handel [Händel, Hendel], George Frideric (opera) [ Georg Friedrich ]
- Anthony Hicks
[ Georg Friedrich ]
(b Halle, Feb 23, 1685; d London, April 14, 1759). English composer of German birth. Though he was widely acknowledged as one of the greatest composers of his age, his reputation from his death to the early 20th century rested largely on the popularity of a small number of orchestral works and oratorios, Messiah in particular. In fact he contributed to every musical genre current in his time, both vocal and instrumental. His operas were until recently the most neglected of his works, being in a format which became regarded as obsolete almost within his lifetime. Yet the composition of operas, mainly on Italian librettos, dominated his activities for over 35 years; they were modelled (like much else in his music) on both German and Italian precedents, modified to satisfy his own artistic preferences and to suit the English contexts in which most of them were produced; and they are the finest (though not the most typical) of their kind. Handel was always by inclination a composer for the theatre, and maintained a commitment to dramatic music (albeit without action) in his English oratorios, at first produced alongside his Italian operas and later his exclusive preoccupation....