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Baroque composer George Handel was born February 23, 1685, in Halle, Germany. In 1704 Handel made his debut as an opera composer with Almira. He produced several operas with the Royal Academy of Music before forming the New Royal Academy of Music in 1727. When Italian operas fell out of fashion, he started composing oratorios, including The Messiah. George Handel died April 14, 1759, in London, England.
Baroque composer George Handel was born George Frederick Handel on February 23, 1685, to Georg and Dorothea Handel of Halle, Saxony, Germany. From an early age, Handel longed to study music, but his father objected, doubting that music was a realistic source of income. In fact, his father would not even permit him to own a musical instrument. His mother was, however, supportive, and encouraged him to develop his musical talent. With her cooperation, Handel took to practicing on the sly.
When Handel was seven years old, he had the opportunity to play the organ for the duke’s court in Weissenfels. It was there that Handel met composer and organist Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. Zachow was impressed with Handel’s potential, and invited Handel to become his pupil. Under the tutelage of Zachow, Handel mastered composing for the organ, the oboe and the violin alike by the time he was 10 years old. From the age of 11 to the time he was 16 or 17 years old, Handel composed church cantatas and chamber music that, being written for a small audience, failed to garner much attention and have since been lost to time.
Despite his dedication to his music, at his father’s insistence, Handel initially agreed to study law. Not surprisingly, he did not remain enrolled in law courses for long. His passion for music would not be suppressed.
In 1703, when Handel was 18 years old, he decided to pursue music in full force, by accepting a violinist’s position at the Hamburg Opera’s Goosemarket Theater. During this time, he supplemented his income by teaching private music lessons in his free time, passing on what he had learned from his own mentor, Zachow.
While working as a violinist, Handel ironically earned attention for his skill on the organ. In fact, it was Handel’s organ playing that landed him more opportunities to perform in operas.
In 1704 Handel made his debut as an opera composer, writing his very first opera, Almira. The opera was successful and achieved a 20-performance run. After composing several more successful operas, in 1706 Handel decided to try his hand in Italy. While in Italy, Handel composed the operas Rodrigo and Agrippina, which were produced in 1701 and 1709 respectively. He also managed to write more than a few dramatic chamber works during his trip to Italy.
Touring the major Italian cities over three opera seasons, Handel introduced himself to most of Italy’s major musicians. Unexpectedly, while in Venice, he met multiple people who expressed an interest in London’s music scene.
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