Georg Friederich Handel was born 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 would be a realistic source of income. In fact, his father would not even permit him to own a musical instrument. His mother, however, was supportive, and she encouraged him to develop his musical talent. With her cooperation, Handel took to practicing on the sly.
When Handel was still a young boy, 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 Zachow’s tutelage, 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, 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 at the University of Halle. Not surprisingly, he did not remain enrolled for long. His passion for music would not be suppressed.
When Handel was 18 years old, he decided to commit himself completely to music, accepting a violinist’s position at the Hamburg Opera’s Goose Market Theater. During this time, he supplemented his income by teaching private music lessons in his free time, passing on what he had learned from Zachow.
Though working as a violinist, it was Handel’s skill on the organ and harpsichord that began to earn him attention and landed him more opportunities to perform in operas. Handel also began to compose operas, making his debut in early 1705 with Almira. The opera was instantly successful and achieved a 20 performance run. After composing several more popular operas, in 1706 Handel decided to try his luck in Italy. While in there, Handel composed the operas Rodrigo and Agrippina, which were produced in 1707 and 1709 respectively. He also managed to write more than a few dramatic chamber works during this period.
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. Enticed to experiment with a freelance music career there, in 1710 Handel left Venice and set out for London.
Until tomorrow: Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes.
Dorothy Prats / [email protected]