George Frederic Häendel (1685-1759).

George Frederic Häendel is one of the major three great germanic composers of the first half of the 18th century. Born in Halle in 1685, he attained great esteem amidst the British people consecrated by the time of his death, in London, in 1759, as "Orpheus Brittanicus"

After giving up his law studies, Häendel devoted himself to music, and in 1703 he travelled to Hamburg, where he became musician at the town opera, and there he premiered his first opera, Almira, in 1705. After Hamburg, Häendel travelled to Italy, and there he met the great names of music of his time, Corelli, Scarlatti and Pergolesi, being then already regarded as a genius. Correlli names him "Il caro Sassone", and in it Italy he composed his first set of "Concerti Grossi", after failing in teaching italian musicians how to play french music.

In 1710 he enters the service of the Hanoverian court in Germany, but in that same year he was invited to come to London, to write an opera (resulting of this invitation the opera "Rinaldo").  Once being invited, but constrained by his duties at the Hannoverian court, Händel asked the prince elector permission to leave to London for a short period, and once obtained, he left never to return, as it would become evident. This infuriated the prince, and would cause hardships to Häendel, when the same prince inherited the throne of England and came to London.

In London, Häendel began a period which would span to 35 years of great success in his career, beginning with italian operas, very fashionable in London at the time. When the prince of Hannover come to be king of England, he wrote, in this same period, the famous "Water Music", to appease the fury of his former employer.

Mostly due to the greater success of Häendel's competitors, like John Gay or Porpora, Häendel left again to Italy after a time to search for new opera superstars to cast for his main roles, people like Senesino, who was told to have had a voice superior to Farinelli's. Back to London, he composer "Orlando" (1733), one of his last italian operas. The fact is that the italian opera had become un fashionable, and Häendel had to turn to another form similar to opera, the so-called "English Oratorio", in all like an opera, musically speaking, but of religious theme and with no scenic setting. It was a gender close to the german passions, and although Häendel initially disdained the sort, he wrote great vocal music and very famous one indeed, like that of "Esther", "Saul", or "The Messiah". Still, in this period, he wrote two masterly operas, "Alcina" and "Ariodante".

Seven years before Häendel died, he blinded, and during this period, he re-writes some of his operas, and dies consecrated in the English music scene. 

Musicaly speaking, Häendel wrote a baroque plain from any futile ornaments, with a firmness and precision in his themes which are unique. The counterpoint is sublimely achieved, and the orchestra settings marvellously created, resulting in pieces of great elegance, like in the "Water Music".

His vocal writing, suiting every "cliché" of italian opera, finds a special profoundness in oratorio, with great humanity an inspiration, dispensing all unnecessary ornaments which specially italian singers ornamented music with. Recitatives are expressive and rich, accomplishing the mission of guiding and expressing story and action.

 

G.F.Haendel: "Ombra mai fu" 

G.F.Haendel: Water Music

 

Reccomended recordings:

Operas:

"Rinaldo": Watkinson, Esswood, Cortubas, Scovotti, Cold, La Grand Écurie et La Chambre du Roy, Malgoire, CBS.

"Alcina": Sutherland, Berganza, Sinclair, Sciutti, Alva, Freni, London Symphonic Orchestra, Bonyge, Decca.

 

Oratorio:

"Saul": MacLeod, Cordier, Shoch, Schilick, McFaddem, Beekman, Shwarz, Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra, Martini, Naxos.

"Israel in Egypt": Coro do Festival de Leeds, English Chamber Orchestra, M ackerras, Archiv.

"The Messiah": Palmer, Watts, Davies, Shirley-Quirk, Ambrosian Singers, English Chamber Orchestra, Leppard, Archiv.

"Judas Maccabaeus": Palmer, Baker, Davies, Shirley-Quirk, Wandsworth Chior, Eglish Chamber Orchestra, Mackerras, Archiv.

"Ode for St Cecilia's day": Lott, Johnson, The English Concert and Choir, Pinock, Archiv.

 

Cantatas:

"Italian Cantatas": Kirkby, The academy of Ancient Musuc, Hogwood, L'Oiseau-Lyre.

 

Instrumental:

"Concerti Grossi": The English Concert, Pinock, Archiv.

"Water Music" e "Music for the Royal Fireworks": Orquestra de Câmara de Estugarda, Münchinger, Decca.                   

 

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