Composer Profile: George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Handel by Balthasar Denner c1726
Portrait of Handel by Balthasar Denner, c.1726

Born in the same year as J. S. Bach and outliving him by nine years, Handel, who was something of a bon vivant, was in many ways the opposite of his somewhat ascetic countryman.

Relatively little is known of Handel’s personal life: he was born in Halle, Germany, and his father, a barber-surgeon of advanced years and considerable reputation, was determined that he should study law. The young Handel was thus forbidden from pursuing his passion for music, but continued to do so on the sly. He did begin studying law at the University of Halle in 1702 but also obtained a position as organist in the local reformed church (previously the cathedral). It seems he never looked back: in 1703 he joined the orchestra in Hamburg, and his first two operas were produced in 1705. Continue reading “Composer Profile: George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)”

Glory, Hallelujah

What We Do In The Shadows
New Zealand mokumentary What We Do In The Shadows plays an extensive excerpt from Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ when the human Stu wins over the vampires.

It happens most often in comedy movies. The protagonist has just had an epiphany (or pseudo-epiphany), found the plot-relevant object or achieved an important goal, and their success is greeted with the sound of an angelic choir and perhaps a ray of heavenly light.

In order to really hammer home the importance of the moment (and because they are well and truly in the public domain) movie-makers often fall back on excerpts from two instantly-recognisable pieces of stock music to convey the significance of this moment.

The first is Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ . The second is the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’  from Handel’s Messiah. Continue reading “Glory, Hallelujah”

Christmas Classics: Handel’s ‘Messiah’

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
(Prologue to Handel’s ‘Messiah’, 1 Timothy 3:16, KJV)

I have heard Handel’s ‘Messiah’ on CD, in part and in full, a number of times, but this year marks the first time I have had the privilege of attending a live performance. I’ll move on to the history of ‘Messiah’ and the details of this particular performance presently, but first…

As someone who is deeply engaged with the religious tradition in which Handel’s masterpiece originates, I cannot overstate how deeply moving, on a spiritual level, I found the performance to be, in a way I simply hadn’t anticipated.

Christ nativity
The Nativity of Christ: the Adoration of the Magi (Orthodox icon).

Continue reading “Christmas Classics: Handel’s ‘Messiah’”