George Frideric Handel (16851759)



  • Composer

Biographical details

Note: the 19th- and early 20th-century biographies below preserve a historical record. A new biography that reflects 21st-century approaches to the subjects in question is forthcoming.

Dictionary of National Biography (1885–1900)

HANDEL, GEORGE FREDERICK, more correctly Georg Friedrich Haendel (1685–1759), musical composer, was the grandson of a coppersmith, Valentin Handel (1582–1636), who removed from Breslau to Halle early in the seventeenth century. The father of the composer was Georg Händel (1622–1697), Valentin's sixth child, who, leaving two elder brothers, Valentin and Christoph, to carry on the business, studied such surgery as could be learnt from a barber in the town named Andreas Beger, who in 1618 had married the daughter of the English musician, William Brade [q. v.], then court kapellmeister at Halle. In 1645 Georg Händel was appointed town surgeon ('Amts-chirurgus') of Giebichenstein, and in 1660 Duke Augustus of Saxony gave him the titles of 'Kammerdiener' and 'Leibchirurgus.' This, with the prefix 'Kurbrandenburgische,' was confirmed to him by the elector of Brandenburg on the death of his former patron. Georg Händel married, first, in 1643, Anna, widow of a barber-surgeon named Oettinger, by whom he had six children; and secondly, in 1683, six months after his first wife's death, Dorothea (b. 1651), daughter of Georg Taust, pastor of Giebichenstein, a suburb of Halle. Georg Händel's house at Halle was No. 4 in the Grosser Schlamm, and here, on 23 Feb. 1685, his son, the second child of his second marriage, was born, and was baptised on the following day (Baptismal Registers of the Liebfrauenkirche, Halle, quoted by Chrysander, G. F. Händel, i. 9). The first child of the second marriage, also a son, had died an hour after its birth in 1684. Two daughters were born later. According to Dreyhaupt (Pagus Neletici, ed. 1755, ii. 625), the boy was sent very early to the gymnasium, or classical school of the town, the master of which, Johann Praetorius, was an ardent musician. Handel may have been withdrawn from the school at the time when his father, intending him for the legal profession, forbad him to have anything to do with music. All the musical instruments in the house were burnt, and the boy's passion for the art must have satisfied itself merely with listening to the town musicians as they played chorales each evening from the tower of the Liebfrauenkirche, had not a kind relation managed to secrete a clavichord in a loft, where its gentle tones could not be heard as Handel taught himself to play. In 1688 his father was appointed surgeon and 'Kammerdiener' to Duke Johann Adolf I of Weissenfels, and before Handel was seven years old he went with his father on a visit to that court (cf. Mainwaring, Memoirs of the Life of the late G. F. Handel, 1760, p. 2). There little Handel was completely happy, for he was allowed not only to attend the rehearsals of the duke's band, but on a certain Sunday to try his skill on the organ ; the duke was struck with his performance, asked who he was, and urged the old surgeon to give the boy a musical education. Accordingly, on his return to Halle, Handel's father allowed him to study music under Zachau, then organist of the Liebfrauenkirche, with whom he remained for some three years, learning the organ, harpsichord, violin, and oboe, besides counterpoint and fugue. He was required to produce a new composition every week, and an important specimen of his work at this time is extant in a set of six sonatas for two oboes and bass, discovered, many years after their composition, by Lord Polwarth (afterwards Earl of Marchmont) when travelling in Germany. They were given by Polwarth to his flute-master, Weidemann, and were shown by Weidemann to Handel himself, who said, as he recognised his early performances, 'I used to write like the devil in those days.' The book disappeared for many years, but a copy of the three parts was found by Mr. W. G. Cusins among the manuscripts at Buckingham Palace, and the works were published in vol. xxvii. of the German Handel Society's edition (see the preface to that volume).

That his father took Handel in the spring of 1696 to Berlin is more probable than that he was sent there in charge of a friend, as Chrysander (i. 52) says, in the autumn of that year. In either case there is no doubt that his appearance at the court of the elector of Brandenburg took place before 1698, the date assigned to it by Mainwaring. The two illustrious musicians whom he met there treated him very differently ; Attilio Ariosti gave him much good advice and encouragement, while Buononcini, as if prescient of the future, was cold and reserved, and tried to confound him by presenting him with a very difficult composition to be played at sight, an ordeal which the child passed through with perfect success. The elector was anxious to keep Handel in his band and to send him to Italy to study, but the father declined the offer on the ground that he required his son's presence at home. He died a few months later, on 17 Feb. 1697 (cf. funeral sermon by J. C. Olearius and memoir by Archdeacon Jahn in Professor J. O. Opel, 'Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Tonkünstlers Händel' in the Neue Mitteilungen des thilringisch-sdchsischen Vereins, bd. xvii.) A poem was written on the occasion by the composer, who subscribes himself as 'der freien Künste ergebener' 'devoted to the fine arts' (Opel, 'Der Kammerdiener Georg Händel und sein 'Sohn Georg Friedrich' in the Zeitschrift fur allgemeine Geschichte, 1885, p. 156). A volume of musical extracts from works by Zachau, Heinrich Albert, Froberger, Krieger, Kerl, Ebner, Adam Strungk, and other writers of the period, signed 'G. F. H.' and dated 1698, was in existence down to 1799, the year of the publication of the Rev. W. Coxe's 'Anecdotes of Handel,' but since that time it has disappeared (Schoelcher, Life of Handel, p. 8).

A casual mention of his name in Telemann's autobiographical contribution to Mattheson's 'Ehrenpforte' shows that even in 1701 Handel had won the esteem and respect of his contemporaries. On 10 Feb. 1702 he was entered as a student at the Friedrichs-Universität, in obedience, it has been sup- posed, to the wish of his father that he should become a lawyer. This theory cannot be sustained in the face of the fact that he was not entered as studiosus juris (Opel, Zeitschrift, &c., p. 159). On 13 March following he was appointed organist of the Schloss und Domkirche at the Moritzburg, the chief church of the reformed Lutheran body at Halle (E. Heineich, G. F. Handel, ein deutscher Tonmeister, Leipzig, 1884). His duties as organist comprised the regular composition of church cantatas for Sundays and festivals, as well as the instruction of the pupils at the school connected with the church on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons (Opel, p. 158). It is uncertain whether we have in the two oratorios and a church cantata accepted by von Winterfeld (Evang. Kirchengesang, iii. 159-64) any of the 'several hundred' works which Chrysander supposes him to have written at this period. Chrysander considers the cantata 'Ach Herr, mir armer Sunder' to be genuine, but its authenticity is very doubtful. At the close of the year of probation imposed upon Handel by the terms of his appointment as organist, he threw up the post and started off' for Hamburg, then the most important musical centre in Germany, where he arrived between 5 April and 5 June 1703. On his arrival he was given a place among the supplementary ('ripieno') second violins in the opera orchestra. At first he affected complete ignorance of music. Mattheson, the first tenor in the company, soon (9 June or 9 July) made friends with Handel, discerning, as he tells us, what his powers really were (Ehrenpforte, p. 191, and Lebensbeschreibung, p. 22). On 17 Aug. of the same year they went together to Liibeck. to compete for the place of deputy and ultimate successor to Dietrich Buxtehude. As neither of the friends could comply with a certain condition of the appointment, viz. to marry Buxtehude's daughter, they returned to Hamburg, where, on Good Friday 1704, Handel produced a setting of the Passion from the.gospel of St. John, chap, xix., to words by Christian Postel. Eighteen years afterwards Mattheson devoted a large section of his 'Critica Musica' to an attack on this work, which gives little promise of the composer's ultimate attainments. Before October 1704 Handel succeeded Reinhard Keiser as conductor of the opera. Some ill-feeling arose at the time between the friends, apparently in connection with the tuition of the son of the English representative, Sir Cyril Wich, who was transferred from Handel's care to Mattheson's, on the ground that he did not make sufficient progress under the former. But on 20 Oct. Mattheson's opera 'Cleopatra' was first produced, and Handel in the earlier performances permitted Mattheson, who himself played the part of Antony, to take the director's place at the harpsichord in the latter part of the work, after the hero's suicide. At the performance of the work on 5 Dec. Handel, however, refused to allow Mattheson to take his customary seat as conductor of the end of the opera. Mattheson was indignant, and as Handel was leaving the theatre gave him a smart box on the ear. A duel followed, and was fought at once in front of the opera house. Mattheson's sword broke against a brass button on Handel's coat ; the quarrel was made up, and the combatants became better friends than before. On 30 Dec. they dined together, and attended in the evening a rehearsal of Handel's first opera, 'Almira,' which had been composed faster than the librettist, Feustking, could supply the words. It was produced on 8 Jan. 1705, and was performed without interruption until 25 Feb., when it was succeeded by 'Nero,' which was performed only three times. 'Almira' contains the saraband which was afterwards turned in 'Rinaldo' into the lovely air 'Lascia ch'io pianga.' The operas 'Florindo' and 'Daphne,' the second a sequel to the first, complete the list of Handel's works written for Hamburg. They seem to have been composed in the autumn of 1706, but not performed until 1708, when Handel was in Italy.

There is no doubt that the influence of the Prince of Tuscany, brother of the Grand Duke Giovanni Gaston de' Medici, had something to do with Handel's journey to Italy, though the composer preferred to wait until he could himself afford to pay for the journey, rather than accept the prince's generous offer of paying his expenses. By the end of 1706 he had saved two hundred ducats by giving lessons &c., and it is fairly certain that, after spending Christmas with his mother and sisters at Halle, he started for Italy about the beginning of 1707. (On the difficulties of reconciling the accounts of the contemporary biographers, see Chrysander, i. 135-42, and Rockstro, Life of Handel, pp. 443, 444.)

Handel visited Florence on his way to Rome, staying there perhaps three months. On 11 April he finished a Dixit Dominus for five voices with orchestra, the superscription of which is the most important piece of evidence as to the date of his reaching Rome. In the same document the spelling Hendel is adopted by the composer, and this orthography is considered to be characteristic of the Italian period. Two more settings of psalms date from the same visit to Rome, which lasted till July, when he returned to Florence. To the same period is assigned, by those who uphold Handel's perfect artistic integrity, the composition of the 'Magnificat,' which was afterwards used in 'Israel in Egypt,' but which is almost certainly proved to be the work of an Italian composer named Erba. (See below. The question is fully discussed in Chrysander, i. 168-9, &c.) From July 1707 till January 1708 he was in Florence again, where his first Italian opera, 'Rodrigo,' was produced with great success, the grand duke rewarding him with a hundred sequins and a service of plate (Mainwaring, p. 50). The famous Vittoria Tesi, who sang the part of the hero, was so attracted by the composer that she followed him to Venice in order to take part in his next opera, 'Agrippina.' This was produced there early in 1708 at the Teatro di San Giovanni Grisostonio, and the audience, mad with enthusiasm, shouted repeatedly 'Viva il caro Sassone' (ib. p. 53; Chrysander, i. 139). In March 1708 he went again to Rome as the guest of the Marchese di Ruspoli, the leader of the celebrated Arcadian academy. There, on 11 April, he wrote an oratorio, 'La Resurrezione,' in which we meet with the first prominent instance of his characteristic freedom in borrowing from his own previous works. One of the airs occurring both in 'Agrippina' and the oratorio appears also in Alessandro Scarlatti's 'Pyrrhus,' given in London in December of the same year (1708) ; but it seems certain that it was introduced into Scarlatti's opera by the influence of some English amateurs who had seen 'Agrippina' in Venice. For the Roman academy of Cardinal Ottoboni Handel wrote an oratorio to a libretto by Cardinal Panfili, 'II Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno,' which was subsequently transformed into the English oratorio, 'The Triumph of Time and Truth,' performed 1757. The difficulties of the overture were so great that Corelli, who played first violin, could not conquer them, and Handel had to write another introduction. At the cardinal's request he was induced to enter into an amicable contest with Domenico Scarlatti, whom he had met in Venice, and whose father, the illustrious Alessandro Scarlatti, was then in Rome. Domenico was adjudged to be the better player of the harpsichord, but Handel carried off the palm in organ-playing ; the two remained close friends, and each retained in after life the greatest admiration for the other's talents. In Naples, where Handel stayed from July 1708 until the autumn of the following year, he wrote the serenata, 'Aci, Galatea e Polifemo,' which has only the subject in common with the better known English work of a later period. Several cantatas and songs belonging to the Italian period were probably written at Naples, where Handel had ample leisure. Returning to Rome, probably for Christmas 1709 (since he almost certainly heard there the 'Pifferari,' upon whose traditional melody he founded the pastoral symphony in the 'Messiah'), he once again made his way, by Florence, to Venice, at the time of the carnival of 1710.

At the instigation of the Baron Kielmannsegge and the Abbate Steffani, he altered his original intention of proceeding straight to England, and went with them to Hanover, where he received from the elector the title of kapellmeister. After visiting his mother (Mainwaring, p. 73), who was now living alone at Halle (the elder daughter, Dorothea Sophia, having married Michael Dieterich Michaelsen of Halle on 26 Sept. 1708, and the younger, Johanna Christiana, having died on 16 July 1709), he went to Düsseldorf, where he received another service of plate from the elector palatine, whom he had met in Italy, and who would have gladly retained him in his own service had he been free.

Handel arrived in London near the end of 1710, but he then had no idea of remaining in England permanently. He was soon engaged by Aaron Hill, the director of the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket, to write an opera, and the libretto of 'Rinaldo' was written from a sketch by Hill by Giacomo-Rossi, who could not write the words fast enough for the composer. The opera was produced on Saturday, 24 Feb. 1711, and was mounted with a magnificence at that time unheard of. The composer exhibited his skill on the harpsichord in the obbligato part of one of the songs. The success was signal. Steele's and Addison's attacks on the new development of Italian opera in the 'Tatler' and 'Spectator' availed nothing against fashionable taste, and 'Rinaldo' was played at the Queen's Theatre until the end of the season (2 June). It was revived frequently in the next few years, and was given in 1715 at Hamburg, and in 1718 at Naples. During the season of 1711 the composer made many friends among English musicians, and appeared at many of the famous concerts given by the 'musical small-coal man,' Thomas Britton [q. v.] In the summer he returned to Hanover, and on 23 Nov. he stood godfather to his sister's child, Johanna Frederica Michaelsen, at Halle. Twelve of the 'chamber duets,' a group of nine German songs, and the six oboe concertos are assigned to the date of this journey; the songs may, however, have been written on a later visit to Hanover, and the concertos may, as is usually stated, have been composed at Canons. Towards the end of 1712 the composer obtained leave from the elector to visit England again, on the understanding that he should return within a reasonable time (ib. p. 85).

On his return to London Handel's 'Pastor Fido' was given, on Saturday, 22 Nov., for the opening of Hill's season (Spectator, 22 Nov. 1712). The words of this pastoral opera were also by Rossi; the performers were Pellegrini, Urbani, Leveridge, Signora Schiavonetti, Margherita de 1'Epine, and Mrs. Barbier ; but the composer seems to have been hampered by the paucity of great singers at the time in England (Nicolini had left in the summer). Handel's next opera, 'Teseo' (words by N. Haym), was produced on Saturday, 10 Jan. 1713. F. Colman, afterwards consul at Leghorn, who kept a register of the operatic performances in London at this time (Add. MS. 11258), says that the manager, Owen Mac Swiney, ran away after a few performances of the opera, leaving dresses and scenery unpaid for. To compensate Handel for his losses, the opera was performed on 15 May for his benefit, 'with an entertainment for the harpsichord.' On 6 Feb. in this year his ode on Queen Anne's birthday had been performed, probably in St. James's Palace, and on 7 July the work known as the ' Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate' was performed at St. Paul's, at the celebration of the peace of that year. A contemporary account states 'the Church-Musick was excellent in its Performance, as it was exquisite in its Composure' (Post-Boy, No. 2834). The queen was too ill to be present, but the music was subsequently performed in her private chapel, and she conferred upon the composer an annuity of 200l. For some months Handel was the guest of a Mr. Andrews, both in London and at his country house at Barn Elms, Surrey. For the remainder of this visit to England he stayed with the Earl of Burlington at his splendid house in Piccadilly. It is probable that the opera 'Silla' was written for some private performance at Burlington House (Chrysander, i. 414-15). A large portion of this work appears again, with alterations, in 'Amadigi,' produced at the King's Theatre on Wednesday, 25 May 1715 (Daily Courant). Nicolini reappeared in this new opera, which was burlesqued at Drury Lane by Gay, and also at Lincoln's Inn Fields. From a passage in Gay's 'Trivia' (bk. ii. v. 493) it appears that the composer's name was still spelt Hendel, though he usually, but not invariably, adopted the form in which Englishmen know it as early as 1713.

After the death of Queen Anne in 1714 the accession of the Elector of Hanover to the throne of Great Britain placed Handel in an awkward predicament. He had fallen into bad favour at the Hanoverian court, probably owing to his having outstayed his leave of absence, and also to his having taken a prominent part in celebrating the peace of Utrecht, an event which was not looked upon with enthusiasm by the protestant courts of Germany. In the summer of 1715 his new patron, the Earl of Burlington, and his old friend, Baron Kielmannsegge, arranged a plan by which Handel was to be restored to court favour. On 22 Aug. the royal family went by water from Whitehall to Limehouse. For this occasion Handel wrote a series of instrumental movements, which were played in a barge immediately following the king's. The result was that George I, delighted with the music, was easilypersuaded by Kielmannsegge to receive Handel at court. Geminiani aided the innocent plot by saying that no one but Handel could play the harpsichord part of some new concertos which he was to perform at the palace. The king gave Handel a further pension of 200l. a year, and a like sum was allotted to him as payment for the musical instruction of the young daughters of the Princess of Wales ; thus 600l. per annum was secured to him for life (Mainwaring, p. 90). Chrysander (ii. 382) is inclined to think that his pension never exceeded 200l., as no evidence can be found of further payments.

A second performance of the water music took place at Chelsea on 17 July 1717. In July 1716 Handel accompanied the court to Hanover, and visited Halle and Anspach. When at Halle he found that the widow of his old teacher, Zachau, was in want, and at once contributed towards her support. At Anspach he renewed his acquaintance with Johann Christoph Schmidt, who afterwards came with him to England as his treasurer and business manager. A second German. Passion was composed on this visit, or immediately afterwards. It was set to a poem by Brockes, which was also the basis of three other compositions by Keiser, Telemann, and Mattheson respectively. The fact that the court returned to England in January 1717, and that 'Rinaldo' and 'Amadigi' were revived during the operatic season of that year, makes it highly probable that Handel's visit to Germany was only of a few months' duration (Chrysander, i. 456). In 1718 he succeeded Pepusch as director of the music at Canons, the magnificent country house of the Duke of Chandos, where a series of twelve anthems on the grandest scale was composed for the duke's chapel, now the parish church of Whitchurch, near Edgware. According to a paragraph in the 'Weekly Journal' (3 Sept. 1720), the chapel was opened for divine service for the first time on 29 Aug. 1720. Besides the anthems, two Te Deums were written during the three years that heheld this appointment, and he now found opportunity for the composition of his first English oratorio, 'Esther,' performed, according to Clark (Reminiscences of Handel, p. 11), on 29 Aug. 1720, as well as of his immortal pastoral, 'Acis and Galatea,' 1720 or 1721.

In February 1719 Handel, in a letter written to Mattheson in French, asserts (in reply to Mattheson's inquiry on the subject) the superiority of the more modern and less dogmatic methods of teaching over the old method of solmisation, of which Pepusch was an ardent advocate. In the latter part of the letter he excuses himself from furnishing Mattheson with materials for a biographical notice in the new edition of the 'Ehrenpforte.' In another letter, written earlier in the same month, and addressed to his brother-in-law Michaelsen, he excuses himself for not paying an intended visit of condolence on the death (8 Aug. 1718) of his sister, whose fondness, mentioned in her funeral sermon, for the passage in Job, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth,' may have impressed the verse upon Handel's mind, and have suggested the allotment of the words to a female voice, in his greatest masterpiece (Chrysander, i. 451, 493).

In the course of the year, however, he visited Germany by the king's command (Applebee's Original Weekly Journal, 21 Feb. 1719, quoted by Chrysander), in order to engage singers for the grand operatic undertaking which, under the name of the Royal Academy of Music, was carried on for nine subsequent seasons. The enterprise was a result of that mania for speculation which reached its culmination in the South Sea Bubble. It was under the most distinguished patronage, the king subscribing l,000l. towards its funds, and appointing the lord chamberlain its chief governing officer. A capital of 50,000l. was disposed in five hundred shares of 100l. each, each share carrying with it a single admission to the theatre. At Dresden, which he visited either in October or December, Handel engaged his best singers, the castrato Bernardi (Senesino), Signora Durastanti, and Boschi, the bass. These artists were not free to make new engagements until October 1721. They therefore took no part in the first season, when operas were given on Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 2 April 1720 to 25 June. Handel, who quitted the service of the Duke of Chandos in order to devote himself entirely to the direction of the opera, supplied, during the existence of the Academy, the following thirteen operas of his own composition : 'Radamisto,' 27 April 1720; 'Floridante,' 9 Dec. 1721 ; 'Ottone,' 12 Jan. 1723 ; 'Flavio,' 14 May 1723 ; 'Giulio Cesare,' 20 Feb. 1724 ; 'Tamerlano,' 31 Oct. 1724; 'Rodelinda,' 13 Feb. 1725; < Scipione,' 12 March 1726; ' Alessandro,'5May 1726; t Ammeto,' 31 Jan. 1727 ; 'RiccardoPrimo,' 11 Nov. 1727 ; 'Siroe,' 17 Feb. 1728 ; and 'Tolomeo,' 30 April 1728, besides joining with Buononcini and Filippo Mattel, a violoncellist in the orchestra, in the composition of 'Muzio Scevola,' 15 April 1721. The question has been raised whether the last-named composer (generally called 'Pippo' or 'II Pipo') or Attilio Ariosti wrote the first act of 'Muzio.' Mairiwaring (p. 105) assigns it to Ariosti, and he is followed by both Burney and Hawkins. But the matter may be said to be settled in Pippo's favour by the recent discovery by Mr. W. H. Cummings of a contemporary manuscript score of the work in question, in its original binding, which is lettered on the back 'Mutius Scsevola, Mr. Handel, Sigs. Pipo and Bononcini.' On p. 157 there occurs 'Overture to Muzio Scævola, with several of ye favourite songs in yt Act, with another Overture,' after which, in Handel's handwriting, the heading 'Pipo Ouverture' appears. The volume formerly belonged to Thomas Chilcot, and is said to have been used by Handel (Musical Times, July 1890, p. 399). The ill-advised attempt to give the public an opportunity of comparing the work of Handel and Buononcini in this opera fanned into flame the rivalry between them and between their respective partisans (cf. Byrom's epigram, 1725, and Buononcini's pamphlet against Handel, 1728). The affair never became a public scandal, like the other celebrated operatic quarrel between the two great sopranos, Cuzzoni, who had arrived in England in 1722, and Faustina, who did not appear until 1726, when she was paid 2,500l. for the season, her rival having been paid 2,000l. for the same time. Mainwaring (p. 110) relates that Handel mastered Cuzzoni by seizing her in his arms and threatening to throw her out of the window unless she consented to sing the song he had written for her début. No doubt the 'great bear,' as he was justly called, was not long in obtaining the same ascendency over Faustina, for the two were actually induced to appear in the same opera, 'Alessandro,' and to sing a duet in which it was impossible to say which had the more important part. Even he, however, could not prevent the scandalous scenes between the supporters of the two singers, the frequency of which at last drove all respectable people from the opera. Partly owing to this cause, and partly to the changes of fashion illustrated by the popularity of the 'Beggar's Opera,' the opera declined. Handel refers definitely to its failure in his preface to 'Tolomeo,' the last opera of the series. By 1728 all the capital had been exhausted, and the company was wound up.

Handel had published in 1720 the first set of harpsichord suites, which he had dedicated to and written for his pupils, the daughters of the Prince of Wales. An air in the fifth suite, subsequently known as 'The Harmonious Blacksmith,' was absurdly said to have been suggested by the beat on the anvil of a blacksmith near Edgware (cf. Grove, Dict. of Music, iv. 667). Handel was naturalised on 13 Feb. 1726, and soon afterwards was given the title of composer to the court, apparently without additional emolument. An entry in Chamberlayne's 'Angliæ Notitia' for 1727 (A General List of Offices, &c., p. 59), to the effect that he was then composer to the Chapel Royal, is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the office was then held (op. cit. p. 194) by Dr. Croft and John Weldon. The title may have been given to Handel in respect of his Coronation anthems, a series of four works, or one composition in four divisions, performed at the coronation of George II, on 11 Oct. 1727. A set of minuets played at a court ball dates from the same year.

In the latter part of 1728 Handel went to Italy with Steffani in order to engage a company of singers to start a new operatic venture with Heidegger, proprietor of the King's Theatre. He visited Rome and Milan, and was at Venice on 11 March 1729. In Italy he procured less illustrious singers than those who had formerly sung for him, but in one of them, Signora Strada,he found a staunch and much needed friend. In June 1729 Handel went to his native town of Halle to see his mother, who had been seriously ill (she died 27 Dec. 1730). An attempt made by Bach's son Wilhelm Friedemann to bring Handel and Bach, who was at Leipzig, together at Halle failed owing to Bach's ill-health and Handel's business engagements. On leaving Halle Handel went to Hamburg and Hanover ; at the former town he engaged the renowned bass singer Riemschneider (London Gazette, 21-4 June, 1729; Opel, Neue Mitteilunyen, &c., xvii. 356).

The first season of the new undertaking at the King's Theatre lasted from 2 Dec. 1729 to 13 June 1730. On the first night Handel's 'Lotario' was performed, and his i Partenope' was produced on 24 Feb. For the next season Senesino was engaged at a fee of 1,400 guineas, many of Handel's most popular operas were revived, and a new one, 'Poro,' produced on 2 Feb. 1730-1. The hornpipe 'Son confusa pastorella' from this opera was given at a benefit of Rochetti the singer at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 26 March, when 'Acis and Galatea' was sung, probably with Handel's consent. The third season of the opera brought to a hearing two new operas, 'Ezio' (15 Jan. 1731-2) and 'Sosarme' (19 Feb.) Four days after the second production, on the composer's forty-seventh birthday, his 'Esther' was performed by the children of the Chapel Royal at the house of their master, Bernard Gates, in James Street, Westminster (cf. Chrsander, ii. 270). The part of 'Esther' was sung by John Randall, afterwards professor of music at Cambridge. In March 1732 a revival of Ben Jonson's 'Alchymist' took place at Drury Lane, for which Handel rearranged the 'overture to 'Roderigo' and other compositions of his own (Daily Post, 7 March 1732). An apparently unauthorised performance of 'Esther' took place, or at least was announced to take place (Daily Journal, 17, 19, and 20 April), on 20 April 1732, and this moved Handel to arrange a performance of the work at the King's Theatre, which was ' fitted up in a decent manner 'for the occasion. Several new numbers were added to the score in order to make it more attractive ; the result was brilliantly successful, and six repetitions were given. In the same year another act of piracy was committed by Arne, the lessee of the 'little theatre in the Hay market,' father of Dr. Arne, who on 17 May gave a performance of 'Acis and Galatea' the score of which had been published in a complete form two years before thereby forcing Handel to produce the work, again with additions, at his own theatre. The additions were taken from the Italian serenata of the year 1708, and were not even translated into English. In this performance, which took place on 10 June, the parts of Acis and Galatea were taken by Senesino and Signora Strada, and that of Polyphemus by Montagnana. Exactly a fortnight later a serenata by Buononcini was given at Handel's own theatre, in such obvious rivalry to his work that Strada refused to sing in it, and the long feud between the composers now reached its culminating point in the establishment by Buononcini and his friends of a rival opera at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, which Senesino was induced to join. The 'Opera of the Nobility,' as the rival institution was called, did not open its doors until December 1733. Before that date Senesino sang in Handel's 'Orlando' (produced 27 Jan. 1733), and Buononcini left the country owing to the discovery of the truth concerning the madrigal by Lotti, which he had attempted to pass off upon the Academy of Ancient Music as his own.

During Lent 1733, on 17 March, Handel's new oratorio, 'Deborah,' was given at the King's Theatre, for which the prices were raised. This called forth a number of attacks, including a scurrilous lampoon, which appeared in 'The Craftsman,' signed ' P[aol]o R[oll]i.' Chrysander has ingeniously endeavoured to show that this refers not to Handel, but to Walpole's excise bill, and that the musical names and incidents are to be understood as having a political meaning. Rolli, however, was one of the most prominent members of the rival company, and wrote most of their librettos, so that it is at least probable that the apparent object of the attack is the true one (cf. Chrysander, ii. 287, &c.) In 'The Bee' for March 1733 there is an epigram in which Walpole and Handel are represented as agreeing to 'fleece' the English public, the one by the tax on tobacco, and the other by the high prices charged for the oratorio performance. Although a certain amount of truth probably underlay the final statement that 'poor Deborah' was 'lost' by the process, it is evident that the non-dramatic works of the composer were gradually gaining ground in popular estimation. In July Handel went to Oxford by the invitation of the vice-chancellor, Dr. William Holmes, to conduct performances of 'Esther,' 'Deborah,' 'Acis,' the 'Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate,' a selection from the 'Coronation Anthem,' and a work written for the occasion, 'Athaliah,' produced 10 July. That a foreigner should be asked to provide the music for the celebration of the 'public act' aroused much ill-feeling (Reliquiæ Hearnianæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 778-9, 935), and occasioned the production of a new set of lampoons (The Oxford Act, a Ballad Opera, London, 1733). The composer was offered a doctor's degree, but declined the honour. In the 'A. B. C. Dario Musico,' 1780, Handel is said to have refused on the ground that he disliked 'throwing his money away for dat de blockhead wish.' But the story, Chrysander points out, is unauthentic, since an honorary degree was conferred without more than a nominal charge. It is probable that in the summer of this year, as Hawkins (Hist. v. 318) states, he went to Italy once more to get singers for his new season. Of the two great sopranists whom he heard there he preferred Carestini, strangely enough leaving Farinelli to be engaged by his rivals. He opened his season on 30 Oct., but until 4 Dec., when Carestini appeared, no very great attraction was offered, nor was any new work produced until 26 Jan. 1734, when 'Arianna' was given for the first time. As the score shows that it was finished on 5 Oct. 1733, its identity of subject with the first opera given by the other side, Porpora's 'Ariadne,' can only have been accidental. On 14 March Handel's pupil, the Princess Royal, was married to the Prince of Orange, and on the previous evening a serenata entitled 'Parnasso in Festa' was performed. It was little more than an arrangement of Earts of 'Athaliah,' a fact which accounts 3r the complete oratorio not being given in London until 1 April 1735. For the wedding anthem, 'This is the day,' the same oratorio and the seventh Chandos anthem were laid under contribution. On 18 May 1735 a new version of 'Pastor Fido' was produced ; the work was epeated till 2 July. The contract with Heidegger, the proprietor of the King's Theatre, expired four days afterwards, and by some chance or stratagem, the explanation of which is not forthcoming, the rival company succeeded in obtaining possession of Handel's theatre. Handel had to open his next season, which began on 5 Oct., with a revival of 'Arianna,' at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre. On 9 Nov. he removed to Rich's new theatre in Covent Garden, and 'Pastor Fido' was again given, together with a 'new Dramatick Entertainment in Musick called Terpsicore' (Theatrical Register, quoted by Schoelcher, p. 172). This was a ballet interspersed with songs, in the book of words called 'prologo.' 'Orestes,' another arrangement from earlier compositions (18 Dec.), served as a stopgap until 'Ariodante,' a work which had been composed for some months, was ready for production. The first performance took place on 8 Jan. 1735. During Lent the three oratorios, 'Esther,' 'Deborah,' and 'Athaliah,' were performed with the addition of organ concertos played between the parts by Handel. 'Alcina' (16 April) carried the season on till its conclusion on 2 July, being given eighteen times consecutively. By the end of his first season at Covent Garden 9,000l. had been lost, in spite, if we may believe the announcement in the London 'Daily Post' of 4 Nov. 1734, of the renewal of the king's subscription of 1,000l. (Burney, Hist. iv. 382). The rival company had claimed, and had apparently received, the continuance of the royal subsidy as though it were connected with the King's Theatre, irrespective of the change of management. Malcolm (Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London, p. 354), states that Handel received only 500l. as a royal subscription. Nevertheless, both schemes failed. The losses of the rival company were greater than Handel's by 3,000l., and on the secession of Farinelli in 1737 that undertaking broke down altogether. In July 1735 Handel paid a visit to Tunbridge. In the early part of the next season no new opera, but a far worthier work, was produced, the famous setting of Dry den's ode on the power of music, called 'Alexander's Feast.' The work, which was written in the incredibly short time of twelve days, was given with immense success on 19 Feb. 1736 at Covent Garden. For the marriage of Frederick, prince of Wales, with the Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha (27 April), a second wedding anthem, 'Sing unto God,' was composed by Handel, this time to new music. At a state visit of the court to the opera on 12 May a new work, 'Atalanta,' was given in honour of the royal wedding. and during the final chorus fireworks were let off on the stage (London Daily Post, 13 May 1736; Old Whig, 20 May). According to G. Döring ('Die Musik in Preussen im 18 ten Jahrhundert,' quoted in the Monatshefte für Musikgeschichte, i. 155) about this time Handel contributed choruses and airs to a cantata commissioned by the corporation of Elbing to celebrate (in 1737) the five hundredth anniversary of the foundation of that town. The libretto was written by one Seller, and part of the music by Hermann Balk. The cantata was performed, but all trace of it is lost.

The operatic productions of 1737, his last year at Covent Garden, were 'Arminio' (12 Jan.), 'Giustino' (16 Feb.), and 'Berenice' {18 May). During Lent performances were given of the Italian serenata 'II Trionfo del Tempo.' At the end of the season Handel was unable to pay his creditors, but all contented themselves with promissory notes except one, Del P6, the husband of the faithful Signora Strada. In due time all the debts were paid in full ; but the anxieties of his position aggravated the ill-health to which he had recently been subject.

Before April 1737 a stroke of paralysis crippled his right arm and affected his right side, and his intellect was slightly impaired (Mainwaring, pp. 121-2 ; Hawkins, v. 326). In the 'London Daily Post' for 30 April 1737 it was announced that 'Mr. Handel, who has been some time indisposed with the rheumatism, is in so fair a way of recovery that it is hoped he will be able to accompany the opera of "Justin" on Wednesday next, 4 May.' After the close of the season he went to Aix-la-Chapelle, and on 7 Nov. he returned, 'partly recovered in health ' (Lon- don Daily Post, quoted in Burney, Hist. iv. 418). Ten days afterwards Queen Caroline died, and the composer gave certain proof of his recovery by writing the splendid funeral anthem, 'The ways of Zion do mourn,' for her burial. It was completed 12 Dec.

Handel was at the same time engaged on a new opera, which was intended for a new company got together by Heidegger in the King's Theatre. One Pescetti led the performances and composed several new pieces, and Handel was offered the sum of 1,000l. for two operas and a pasticcio. These were 'Faramondo' (7 Jan. 1738), 'Alessandro Severe,' pasticcio (25 Feb.), and 'Serse' (15 April). A benefit was organised by Handel's many friends and admirers, in order to relieve him from the pressing claims of his importunate creditor, Del P6. The affair, which took place on 28 March 1738, was brilliantly successful, and the profits, which were variously estimated at 800l. and 1,500l. (Mainwaring), were amply sufficient for the purpose. The concert, called after the fashion of the day 'an oratorio,' was of a purely miscellaneous order, songs in English and Italian, and an organ concerto being given (Burney, sketch of the life of Handel in An Account of the ... Commemoration of Handel, 1785, p. 24). From the 'London Daily Post' of 15 and 18 April 1738 we learn that the statue of Handel by Roubillac, which stood in Vauxhall Gardens until their demolition, was finished and erected in this year at the expense of Jonathan Tyers, the conductor of the entertainments.

Heidegger's attempt to organise operatic performances for the next soason failed, and Handel seems to have determined once more to try his fortune as a manager. He gave twelve weekly performances of non-dramatic pieces at the King's Theatre, January-April 1739, and a new opera, 'Jupiter in Argos,' was announced for production on 1 May 1739 at Lincoln's Inn Fields; but as the newspapers for the first week of May are not extant it is impossible to say whether the performance took place. The opera is a pasticcio made up from previous works by Handel. His final compositions for the stage were 'Imeneo' (produced at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, where a series of oratorios, &c.. was being given, 22 Nov. 1740), and 'Deidamia' (10 Jan. 1741). It is curious to find that the libretto of the last opera was the work of Paolo Rolli, who had previously been so bitterly hostile. Before his tenure of the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre came to an end, Handel's setting of Dryden's shorter 'Ode on St. Cecilia's Day' was given (22 Nov. 1739). On 20 March 1739 'Alexander's Feast' was performed at the King's Theatre in aid of the funds of the Royal Society of Musicians, when Handel himself played the organ. For the benefit of the same society he devoted thenceforth one performance each year, and always took his place at the organ. He also produced at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre in 1739 two concertos written in that year. For 27 Feb. 1740 he set to music an arrangement from Milton's 'L'Allegro' and 'II Penseroso' made by a rich amateur, Charles Jennens, of Gopsall, Leicestershire, who added a third part, 'II Moderate.'

Handel was now devoting all his attention to those masterpieces in oratorio on which his enduring fame depends. The great series began with 'Saul,' about the words of which Jennens seems to have written to him as early as 28 July 1735. It was brought out on 16 Jan. 1739 at the King's Theatre. Four performances followed, together with 'Alexander's Feast' (20 March 1739), 'II Trionfo del Tempo,' and 'several concertos on the organ and other instruments.' On 4 April 'Israel in Egypt' was given for the first time. The oratorio was originally preceded by the entire funeral anthem which had been composed for Queen Caroline's funeral in 1737, now sung as a ' Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph.' In spite of the 'new organ concerto,' introduced in order to give variety to the entertainment, the work found so little favour that at the second performance (on the llth) four songs, three of them in Italian, were interpolated. Though not widely popular, even in its shortened form, 'Israel in Egypt' was highly appreciated by the few. It was repeated a third time on 17 April in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales (London Daily Post, 13, 14, 17 April). A highly enthusiastic account of this performance, signed 'R. W.,' appeared in the same paper on the following day; it was reprinted when 'Israel' was repeated at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 1 April 1740.

Serious charges have been brought against Handel in connection with this oratorio. There are beyond doubt incorporated in the score virtually the whole of three entire works, viz. : a Magnificat attributed to a composer named Erba, otherwise almost unknown ; a serenata assigned to Stradella, and a canzona by J. C. Kerl. It is generally acknowledged that the composer touched nothing which he did not adorn, and the charge does not reflect on his powers so much as on his honesty. Those who defend Handel from what seems little short of fraud have been driven to such untenable hypotheses as that the compositions from which Handel borrowed were his own works wrongfully ascribed to other composers (see for the defence Rocksteo, pp. 221-6, 274-7, and Schoelcher, pp. 24, 423, &c. ; for the other view, Cheysander, i. 168, &c. The interesting articles in the Monthly Musical Record for November and December 1871 may be consulted). It is curious that a man of so peculiarly straightforward a nature as Handel should have adopted the work of others, particularly when his own wealth of musical resource is remembered. The argument that exclusive rights in musical ideas were not in Handel's day as widely recognised as they are now deserves some weight. Less can be said for the plea that, in the press of work in which Handel was engrossed, he may very well have drawn upon a memory which is known to have been unusually retentive and accurate, imagining that he was recalling compositions of his own. Karl's canzona appears as 'Egypt was glad' in Handel's oratorio, note for note, with only a change of key (see Hawkins, Hist. chap, cxxiv.) Nor are the cases mentioned the only evidences brought to support the accusation. Extensive use is made in the 'Dettingen Te Deum' and in 'Saul' of a Te Deum by Francesco Antonio Urio, dating from about 1700, and themes from Steffani, Clari, Buononcini, and many other composers are to be found in others of Handel's works.

In the autumn of 1741 Handel went to Dublin at the invitation of the Duke of Devonshire, then lord-lieutenant of Ireland. A series of subscription concerts was arranged at the new music hall in Fishamble Street, and there a number of Handel's most popular cantatas, such as 'Acis,' 'L' Allegro,' &c., were given successfully, always, or almost always, with the additional attraction of instrumental concertos. The operetta 'Imeneo' was transformed into a cantata, 'Hymen,' and was performed twice (March 24 and 31). The series closed with 'Esther' on 7 April. Handel had taken with him to Ireland the score of a new oratorio, his masterpiece, the 'Messiah,' which he had completed in the incredibly short space of twenty-three days (22 Aug. to 14 Sept., Chrysander in Allgem. D. Biogr. xii. 789). Nine months had passed since the completion of 'Deidamia,' his last Italian opera, and during that time the process of composition was doubtless going on, perhaps in part unconsciously. Mainwaring states that an unsuccessful performance of this work took place at Covent Garden before the date of the Irish journey, but no evidence can be found to support his assertion. It is certain that the 'Messiah' was first heard at the rehearsal in Dublin on 8 April. It was performed publicly on the 13th, for the benefit of various Dublin charities, among others for the relief of the prisoners in the several gaols. The hall in Fishamble Street was made to contain seven hundred persons instead of six hundred, the ladies having been induced to come without their hoops, and the gentlemen without their swords. Signora Avolio, Mrs. Gibber, and Messrs. Church and Ralph Roseingrave were the soloists. The impression produced by the work was so profound that it was given again on 3 June, after a successful performance of 'Saul.' Apparently the only person who was not satisfied with the composition was Jennens, the librettist, who says in a letter now in the possession of Lord Howe (H. Townsend, An Account of the Visit of Handel to Dublin, p. 118) : 'He [Handel] has made a fine entertainment of it, tho' not near so good as lie might and ought to have done. I have with great difficulty made him correct some of the grossest faults in the composition, but he retain'd his overture obstinately, in which there are some passages far unworthy of Handel, but much more unworthy of the Messiah.' The alterations here referred to are possibly those embodied in the appendix to Randall and Abell's full score. The custom of rising at the 'Hallelujah' chorus, which has continued till the present day, seems to have been begun at the first performance of the work in London, at Covent Garden, 23 March 1743, when the king set the example. The first performance of the work in Germany took place at Hamburg under Michael Arne, 15 April 1772, the soprano music being sung by a Miss Venables (Sittard, Geschichte des Musik- und Konzertwesens in Hamburg, p. 110, quoted in the Monatshefte fur Musik-Geschichte, 1890, p. 65). It was subsequently performed in the same town in 1775, at Mannheim in 1777, and at Schwerin in 1780 (Kade, Die ersten drei Aufführungen des Messias in Deutschland}.

Handel returned to London at the end of August 1742. At the time he wasprojecting a second series of oratorio concerts in Dublin for 1743, but the scheme came to nothing. Writing to Jennens, 9 Sept. 1742, he contradicted a report that he was to have the direction of the opera in London, and said that he was uncertain whether he 'shall do something in the oratorio way.' An advertisement appeared in the 'Daily Advertiser' for 17 Feb. 1743, to the effect that he intended to give six subscription concerts at Covent Garden, opening on the 18th with a new oratorio called 'Samson,' which had actually been composed all but the two last numbers, before he went to Ireland. 'Samson' pleased the public so much that the subscription was extended to twelve performances, eight of the new work, three of the 'Messiah,' and one of 'L' Allegro' and the 'Ode for St. Cecilia's Day.' His growing reputation is proved by the fact that his rivals revived in 1743 his opera of 'Alessandro' at the King's Theatre, then under the management of Lord Middlesex. Handel seems to have been paid 1,000l. on the occasion (see Rockstro, p. 323). A Te Deum and an anthem, written in celebration of the victory of Dettingen, were performed at St. James's Palace on 27 Nov. 1743, and in the followingLent a new series of twelve subscription performances was started at Covent Garden. The only new oratorio given was 'Joseph and his Brethren,' produced 2 March 1744, and performed four times. A week before Lent, 10 Feb. 1744, 'Semele,' a new secular work, had been produced, without scenery or action; this was repeated four times, probably after the Lenten series. As the opera had as usual come to grief, the King's Theatre was available for Handel's next season (1744-5), and he accordingly took it for a series of twenty-four subscription performances and oratorios to be given during the winter. Here 'Hercules,' another secular oratorio, as it has been called, was produced on 5 Jan. 1745, and 'Belshazzar,' another oratorio set to words by Jennens, on 27 March. Burney says (Sketch, p. 29) that Handel stopped payment after the two performances of 'Hercules' in January, but it seems more likely that the season went on uninterruptedly till the sixteenth night of the series, 23 April, when the remainder of the performances were undoubtedly abandoned.

The popularity of the 'Messiah' was increasing, and 'Samson' was scarcely less successful. Handel therefore resolved to persevere with his Lenten performances, and in 1746 resumed them at Covent Garden. Three oratorios were given as a compensation to those of his subscribers who had paid for the whole series of the previous year, and on 14 Feb. a new work, called an 'Occasional Oratorio,' was produced. According to Baker (Biographia Dramatica, ed. 1812, iii. p. 446) it was composed in order to celebrate the victory of Culloden, but as this battle was not fought until 16 April, and when the oratorio was written the rebellion had been by no means entirely suppressed, the 'occasion' cannot be said to be certainly established. The season of 1746 proved again a financial failure, but that of 1747, which saw the production of 'Judas Maccabaeus,' was more fortunate. This work, the words of which were written by Dr. Thomas Morrell, was first given on 1 April 1747. The Jewish amateurs of music, of whom there were many in London, patronised the celebration of their national hero, and the whole season was so successful that Handel wisely turned again to Jewish history for the subjects of his two next oratorios. 'Alexander Balus' was produced on 9 March 1748, and 'Joshua' on the 23rd of the same month. Both libretti were by the author of 'Judas.'

After the collapse of 1744 no operas were given at the King's Theatre till the beginning of 1746, and in the following year, when Lord Middlesex was joined by a number of noblemen in the management of affairs, a pasticcio, called 'Lucio Vero,' was arranged from the works of Handel, and performed with great success during the winter of 1747-8. It is at least possible that this done without Handel's consent. The next season saw the production of 'Susanna' on 10 Feb., and of 'Solomon' on 17 March 1749. The latter is one of the composer's best works, though of late years it seems to have sunk in public estimation. On 21 April Handel's 'Music for the Fireworks ' was rehearsed at Vauxhall, to an audience of twelve thousand persons ; the performance took place on the 27th in the Green Park, in celebration of the peace of Aix. The papers had announced as far back as the previous January (London Magazine, General Advertiser, 3 Jan.) that 'a band of a hundred musicians are to play before the fireworks begin, the musick for which is to be compos'd by Mr. Handel.' The work is perhaps chiefly remarkable as containing the only instance of the use of the serpent in a score of Handel's (Gent. Mag. &c.) A month afterwards the music was repeated, together with the Dettingen anthem, a selection from 'Solomon,' and a new anthem, 'Blessed are they that consider the poor,' for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital, in the chapel of that institution, before the Prince and Princess of Wales and 'a great number of persons of quality and distinction' (ib.) The composer had offered this performance to the committee of the hospital on 4 May, and was immediately enrolled as one of the governors in recognition of his generosity (Brownlow, Memoranda of the Foundling Hospital, 1847). Handel retained his interest in the charity throughout his life ; not content with presenting to the chapel a very fine organ, built by Parkes, he conducted a performance of the 'Messiah' there on 1 May 1750, and again on the 15th of the same month (General Advertiser, 24 April and 4 May). Between this time and the date of his death the composer directed nine more performances of the 'Messiah' for the benefit of the institution, an act of benevolence which is all the more creditable to him, seeing that the work was almost the only one of his oratorios which could be depended upon to attract a large audience. These eleven performances realised a sum of 6,935l. (Burney, Sketch, p. 28).

Handel's next oratorio, 'Theodora' (the libretto by Dr. Thomas Morell), produced 16 March 1750, was so unsuccessful that Handel 'was glad if any professor, who did not perform, would accept of tickets, or orders for admission. Two gentlemen of that description, now living, having applied to Handel after the disgrace of "Theodora" for an order to hear the "Messiah." he cried out, '"Oh, your sarvant, Mein herren! you are tamnaple tainty! you would not co to Teodora, der was room enough to tance dere. when dat was perform " ' (Burney, Sketch, p. 29, note). He seems to have ascribed the failure of "Theodora" to the fact that 'the Jews would not come to it, because it was a Christian story, and the ladies would not come to it, because it was a virtuous one' (Baker, Biographia Dramatica, ed. 1812, iii. 447). This was the last of his reverses. The oratorios were so well attended from this time forward that he was able to save money. The 'General Advertiser' of 21 Aug. 1750 (Schoelcher, p. 317) announced that 'Mr. Handel, who went to Germany to visit his friends some time since, and between the Hague and Haarlem had the misfortune to be overturned, by which he was terribly hurt, is now out of danger.' In the same year he wrote music for Smollett's 'Alcestis,' intended to be produced by Rich. The production never took place, and 'Alceste,' as the music was called, was incorporated in 'The Choice of Hercules,' a 'musical interlude,' performed four times during the next season, beginning on 1 March 1751. The composition of the last of his oratorios, 'Jephtha,' occupied him from January of this year until August ; the length of time is accounted for by the state of his health, which compelled him to go to Cheltenham for the waters. Handel was at the time threatened with blindness, and the effects of his malady are to be traced in the manuscript of the oratorio. 'Jephtha' was first given at Covent Garden on 26 Feb. 1752.

Before that date Handel had taken the advice of Samuel Sharp, of Guy's Hospital, and on 3 May he was couched for gutta serena by William Bramfield. It was hoped that the operation was completely successful, but on 27 Jan. 1753 it was announced in the 'London Evening Post' that 'Mr. Handel has at length, unhappily, quite lost his sight.' He did not, however, become absolutely blind. M. Schoelcher discovered in the score of 'Jephtha,' which was written by Smith, and is now at Hamburg, a note of music undoubtedly corrected in pencil in Handel's writing. The number in which this occurs was not added until 1758. The signatures to the three codicils to his will prove also that he could see a little by looking closely. As soon as it became evident that the most he had to hope for was 'a freedom from pain in the visual organs for the remainder of his days' (Hawkins), he sent for his pupil and protégé, John Christopher Smith, the son of his amanuensis Schmidt, to help him in conducting his oratorios, and to write from his dictation. Smith was then abroad as tutor to a young man of large fortune, but returned to England at once. At the performances of the oratorios Handel still played the organ concertos, which were an integral part of the entertainment, but of course from memory, and gradually the solo parts of the concertos assumed the character of an improvisation (Burney, Sketch, p. 29). The oratorios went on year after year, apparently with regular success ; on the revivals of 'Jephtha' and 'Semele,' additions were made to the score of each work. The only new composition, 'The Triumph of Time and Truth,' produced at Covent Garden, 11 March 1757, was of course a new version of one of his earliest works, with considerable additions and alterations. This has a special interest, since it shows how extremely slight was the difference between Handel's early and later styles. About the beginning of 1758 he felt that his health was rapidly declining (Hawkins), but he managed to fulfil all his engagements until within a few days of his death. The tenth night of his season of 1759 took place on 6 April at Covent Garden, when the 'Messiah' was given ; at the close of the performance Handel was taken ill with faintness, and about eight o'clock in the morning of Saturday, 14 April (Easter Eve), he died at his house, now 25 Brook Street (cf. detailed account of his death in a letter from one James Smyth, a perfumer, of New Bond Street, to Handel's friend, Bernard Granville, printed in The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, afterwards Mary Delany, 1861-2). He was buried in Westminster Abbey on the even- ing of the 20th 'at about eight o'clock' (Universal Chronicle, 24 April 1759). The funeral, although nominally private, was attended by three thousand persons. Burney, relying on the statement of the doctor who attended Handel, that the date of death was 13 April, erroneously denied the accuracy of the inscription on the monument (erected in 1762), which correctly gives the date as the 14th (cf. Burney, Commemoration of Handel). Handel's will was proved 26 April 1759 ; it is printed entire, with the four codicils, in Clarke's 'Reminiscences of Handel,' in Rockstro's 'Life,' and elsewhere. The codicils show that between 1750 and 1756 he had saved about 2,500,'. His relations in Germany were not forgotten, but his most important bequest was that of his music books and harpsichord to John Christopher Smith, who, in gratitude for the continuation by George III of a pension granted to him by the Princess Dowager of Wales, one of his most steadfast patrons, presented to the king all Handel's manuscript scores, a bust by Roubillac, and possibly the harpsichord, though there is strong reason for believing the last to be now in the South Kensington Museum (see Rockstro, pp. 427-8). Large collections of Handel's works exist in Smith's writing ; one belongs to H. B. Lennard, Esq., of Hampstead, another to Dr. Chrysander, a third is in the possession of Bevil Granville, esq., of Wellesbourne Hall, Warwickshire. An important collection of sketches in Handel's autograph, besides other complete works in his own and Smith's writing, is in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge ; the Earl of Aylesford has some autograph works, and the British Museum possesses the autographs of several of the concertos, the Dettingen anthem, one of the Chandos anthems, parts of 'Alcestis' and the water music, and an early Italian concerto.

In person Handel was somewhat unwieldy, his features were large, and his general expression (according to Burney) rather heavy and sour. This must have been caused by the prominent black eyebrows which are noticeable in his portraits. His smile, according to the same authority, was like 'the sun bursting out of a black cloud.' His contemporaries seem to have known little of his private life beyond the facts that he had an enormous appetite, and that when provoked 'he would break out into profane expressions.' The immense number of his compositions, combined with his work as a conductor and impresario, can have left him little time for other occupations, and there is no record that he had any tastes outside his art. Many anecdotes prove that the simple, straightforward nature of his sacred music was the direct reflection of a sincerely religous nature. When complimented by Lord Kinnoull upon the noble entertainment which he had lately given the town in the 'Messiah,' he said : 'My lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better (Beattie, Letters, ii. 77). He admitted, too, that during the composition of the 'Hallelujah' chorus, 'I did think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself.' It is hard to reconcile with his upright and honest nature the charges of plagiarism brought against him upon grounds which cannot be contested. The most temperate and critical discussion of the question within a short compass will be found in an article (by the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour) in the 'Edinburgh Review' for January 1887.

Many different opinions have been entertained as to the ultimate position which Handel will occupy in the history of music. In England he is regarded with a veneration which acknowledges no faults. Abroad he has been condemned as old-fashioned and out-of-date, and has been undeservedly neglected. Looked at from the point of view of historical development, he sums up the results of the musical tendencies of a hundred years, and carries them to a point beyond which they could not advance. He is the successor of Purcell in England, of Lully in France, of Scarlatti in Italy, and of Keiser in Germany, and he carried choral music to a pitch which it had never reached before, and which it has not exceeded since. He is the culminating point of a school, and, as such, reproduces many of the characteristics of his predecessors, but without suggesting the course of new development of his art. The power of assimilating what is best in the work of others is, indeed, one of his most noticeable characteristics. Besides this, his massive simplicity of effects, and his remarkable skill in expressing with singular directness the less complex side of devotional feeling, have secured for some few of his compositions a place in the hearts of Englishmen which is conceded to no other composer. But despite all the vaunted admiration of Handel, the attempt to revive any of his less known works is rarely made, and when made is usually unsuccessful. Unlike Bach or Haydn, Handel lacked the power by which an artist is impelled to progress beyond his contemporaries and to point the way to new methods which will preserve his art from stagnation. Every composer of the very first rank has possessed this power, and the want of it has prevented those critics who only regard Handel's music in the light of that which succeeded him from doing him full justice. His influence upon modern music is very slight; there is not a single development of modern musical form which can be traced back to him, and for a time the supremacy of his music served only to paralyse musical progress in this country.

All Handel's important vocal works have been mentioned above, under the dates of production ; besides these, various pasticcios were made up from his compositions, to which he added recitatives, &c., as occasion required. There are: 'Ormieda' (1730), 'Lucio Papirio' (1732), 'Catone' (1732), 'Semiramis' (1733), 'Cajo Fabricio' (1733), 'Arbace' (1734), 'Orestes' (1734), 'Alessandro Severe ' (1738), 'Roxana' (1743), and 'Lucio Vero' (1747). 'Honorius,' of which fragments are preserved in the Fitzwilliam Museum, may have been intended for a pasticcio, or may belong, with 'Tito' (1732), 'Alfonso Prinio' (1732), and 'Flavio Olibrio' (date uncertain), to the category of his unfinished operas. Full lists of his instrumental works are given in Grove's 'Dictionary of Music' (i. 657) and Rockstro's 'Life.' The first attempt at publishing a complete edition of Handel's works was made by Arnold, who issued a prospectus on the subject in 1786. One hundred and eighty numbers were published, when the undertaking came to an end. Arnold's edition is both incomplete and incorrect. In 1843 another attempt was made by the English Handel Society, but this was dissolved in 1848, though the publications were continued by Messrs. Cramer until 1855, by which time sixteen volumes had appeared. In 1856 the German Handel-Gesellschaft was formed, mainly owing to the exertions of Dr. Chrysander. The edition issued under his auspices, when complete, will consist of a hundred volumes (list in Grove, Dict. of Music, iv. 665-6). Its success was secured by the munificence of the late King of Hanover, who guaranteed the publishers against loss. After the events of 1866 the Prussian government took over this liability.

There are many extant portraits of Handel. Besides Roubillac's Vauxhall statue now in the possession of A. Littleton, esq., of Sydenham an engraving of which, by Bartolozzi, was published in Arnold's edition of Handel's works, 1 Jan. 1789, there are three marble busts by the same artist belonging respectively to the queen (at Windsor Castle), the Foundling Hospital, and Alfred Morrison, esq. Roubillac also executed the monument in Westminster Abbey, an engraving of which, from a drawing by E. F. Burney, is given in Burney's 'Commemoration,' and in Arnold's edition. In the private chapel at Belton House, Lincolnshire, there is a marble medallion portrait. Of the paintings and miniatures in existence the exact number is unknown ; the following is a list of those of which there is any record. 1 and 2. Life-size to waist, by Hudson, belonging to the Royal Society of Musicians, exhibited at South Kensington (Nos. 57, 58) in 1885. One of these is a poor replica. 3. Half-length, seated, by Hudson, at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Engraved by Bromley for Arnold's edition and also by Faber (1749) (Chaloner Smith's 'Catalogue,' No. 175). Lithographed by Day. 4. Full-length, seated, by Hudson. Belongs to Lord Howe, at Gopsall. Signed and dated 1756. Described and engraved in the 'Magazine of Art,' viii. 309. Exhibited at South Kensington, 1867 (No. 398). 5. A replica of 4, with slight alterations, such as the absence of a hat, &c. Formerly at Windsor (cf. Pyne, Royal Residences, vol. i.) ; now at Buckingham Palace. Engraved by J. Thomson in Knight's 'Gallery of Portraits' (1833), ii. 41. 6. Another version of Hudson's Gopsall portrait, with the hat, but withwithout the glove in the right hand, formerly belonged successively to Arnold and Lonsdale, but now in the National Portrait Gallery (Catalogue, No. 8). 7. Forstemann (Handel's Stammbaum, 1844, p. 12) states that a fine original portrait of Handel by Hudson was then in the possession of two descendants of his niece at Halle. This is possibly the same picture as 8, mentioned in the 'Monatshefte für Musik-Geschichte' (iv. 157) as being on sale at Berlin in 1872. It was then attributed to Kneller, though it was neither signed nor dated. 9. By Denner, formerly in the possession of Lady Rivers and the Sacred Harmonic Society, now belonging to A. Littleton, esq. Bust to right. Exhibited at South Kensington in 1868 (No. 750), and in 1885 (No. 64). Engraved by E. Harding (1799) for Coxe's 'Anecdotes of Handel and Smith.' 10. By Denner, belonging to Lord Sackville at Knowle. Bust to right. It is doubtful whether this is a portrait of Handel, for it is dated 1736, and represents a man aged between thirty and forty. 11. By Ph. Mercier, in the possession of Lord Malmesbury. Half-length, seated at a round table. This picture is said to have been given by Handel to Mr. Harris about 1748. Exhibited at South Kensington, 1867 (No. 411). A copy of this picture, painted about 1825 by a Miss Benson, was offered for sale at Messrs. Christie's 20 July 1872 (No. 100), and again 18 Jan. 1873 (No. 75). 12. By G. A. Wolfgang, formerly in the possession of Mr. Snoxell, but sold at Messrs. Puttick & Simpson's in 1879 for 15l. 10s. to a buyer of the name of Clark. Engraved by J. G. Wolfgang (two states). 13. By Sir James Thornhill. Three-quarter length, seated at the organ. Formerly belonged to Richard Clark and to Ellerton; now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. It has been questioned whether this picture really represents Handel. It is said to have been painted for the Duke of Chandos, but the evidence is unsatisfactory. Exhibited at South Kensington, 1867 (No. 65). Engraved in the 'Magazine of Art,' viii. 309. Rockstro (p. 423) follows Grove (Dict. i. 656) in the mistake that there are two portraits by Thornhill. 14. A small oval bust by Grafoni, in the Fitzwilliam Museum. South Kensington, 1885 (No. 66). Engraved in the 'Magazine of Art,' viii. 309. 15. A small square portrait, to waist, by F. Kyte, signed and dated 1742, formerly belonged to J. Marshall, esq., now in the possession of W. H. Cummings, esq. (cf. Keith Milnes, Memoir relating to a Portrait of Handel, 1829). South Kensington, 1885 (No. 68). Engraved by Lewis, 1828. This interesting little picture is evidently the original of the engraved portrait by Houbraken found in Randall's edition of Handel's works, and also of a rare engraving by Schmidt. Hawkins (Hist. v. 412-13) says that in Houbraken's print the features were too prominent, and that none of the pictures extant were good likenesses, 'except one painted abroad, from a print whereof he gives a small vignette by Grignion. Although Grignion's vignette reverses Schmidt's print, there can be but little doubt that the Kyte picture is its original. 16, 17, 18. Portraits by Reynolds, Hermann van der Myn, and Michael Dahl, in the possession of W. H. Cummings, esq. 19. An oval, head and shoulders, in the Music School collection, Oxford. South Kensington, 1885 (No. 56). 20. A miniature by Zincke, painted when Handel was young. In the possession of H. Barrett Lennard, esq. Engraved in the 'Magazine of Art,' viii. 309. 21. A miniature formerly belonging to Mr. Snoxell, and sold at Messrs. Puttick's in 1879 for 2l. 5s. (Rockstro, p. 423). 22 and 23. Two miniatures in the Queen's collection at Windsor. 24. A pastel drawing (caricature) by Goupy, belonging to W. H. Cummings, esq. This is the original of one of the two caricatures which Goupy published in 1754. In both Handel is represented with a boar's head and tusks, playing the organ.

[Chrysander's Life is incomplete, and does not go beyond 1740. It is an invaluable collection of facts, but destitute of literary style, and of little critical value owing to its extreme bias in favour of Handel. Schoelcher's Life is readable, though not very trustworthy. Rockstro's Life is mainly based upon Schoelcher. The best of the many short articles on Handel is that by the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour in the Edinburgh Review for January 1887. The German Handel Society's complete edition of Handel's works is a model of erudition, and the prefaces to the various works have been frequently consulted. Other authorities are cited in the text. Acknowledgment for assistance upon various points must be made to G. Scharf, esq. C.B., W. H. Cummings, esq., J. Marshall, esq., W. G. Cusins, esq., Professor Middleton, and others ]

J. A. F. M.
W. B. S.

Encyclopædia Britannica 11th edition (1911)

HANDEL, GEORGE FREDERICK (1685–1759), English musical composer, German by origin, was born at Halle in Lower Saxony, on the 23rd of February 1685. His name was Handel, but, like most 18th-century musicians who travelled, he compromised with its pronunciation by Life.foreigners, and when in Italy spelt it Hendel, and in England (where he became naturalized) accepted the version Handel, which is therefore correct for English writers, while Händel remains the correct version in Germany. His father was a barber-surgeon, who disapproved of music, and wished George Frederick to become a lawyer. A friend smuggled a clavichord into the attic, and on this instrument, which is inaudible behind a closed door, the little boy practised secretly. Before he was eight his father went to visit a son by a former marriage who was a valet-de-chambre to the duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. The little boy begged in vain to go also, and at last ran after the carriage on foot so far that he had to be taken. He made acquaintance with the court musicians and contrived to practise on the organ when he could be overheard by the duke, who, immediately recognizing his talent, spoke seriously to the father, who had to yield to his arguments. On returning to Halle Handel became a pupil of Zachau, the cathedral organist, who gave him a thorough training as a composer and as a performer on keyed instruments, the oboe and the violin. Six very good trios for two oboes and bass, which Handel wrote at the age of ten, are extant; and when he himself was shown them by an English admirer who had discovered them, he was much amused and remarked, “I wrote like the devil in those days, and chiefly for the oboe, which was my favourite instrument.” His master also of course made him write an enormous amount of vocal music, and he had to produce a motet every week. By the time he was twelve Zachau thought he could teach him no more, and accordingly the boy was sent to Berlin, where he made a great impression at the court.

His father, however, thought fit to decline the proposal of the elector of Brandenburg, afterwards King Frederick I. of Prussia, to send the boy to Italy in order afterwards to attach him to the court at Berlin. German court musicians, as late as the time of Mozart, had hardly enough freedom to satisfy a man of independent character, and the elder Händel had not yet given up hope of his son’s becoming a lawyer. Young Handel, therefore, returned to Halle and resumed his work with Zachau. In 1697 his father died, but the boy showed great filial piety in finishing the ordinary course of his education, both general and musical, and even entering the university of Halle in 1702 as a law student. But in that year he succeeded to the post of organist at the cathedral, and after his “probation” year in that capacity he departed to Hamburg, where the only German opera worthy of the name was flourishing under the direction of its founder, Reinhold Keiser. Here he became friends with Matheson, a prolific composer and writer on music. On one occasion they set out together to go to Lübeck, where a successor was to be appointed to the post left vacant by the great organist Buxtehude, who was retiring on account of his extreme age. Handel and Matheson made much music on this occasion, but did not compete, because they found that the successful candidate was required to accept the hand of the elderly daughter of the retiring organist.

Another adventure might have had still more serious consequences. At a performance of Matheson’s opera Cleopatra at Hamburg, Handel refused to give up the conductor’s seat to the composer when the latter returned to his usual post at the harpsichord after singing the part of Antony on the stage. The dispute led to a duel outside the theatre, and, but for a large button on Handel’s coat which intercepted Matheson’s sword, there would have been no Messiah or Israel in Egypt. But the young men remained friends, and Matheson’s writings are full of the most valuable facts for Handel’s biography. He relates in his Ehrenpforte that his friend at that time used to compose “interminable cantatas” of no great merit; but of these no traces now remain, unless we assume that a Passion according to St John, the manuscript of which is in the royal library at Berlin, is among the works alluded to. But its authenticity, while strongly upheld by Chrysander, has recently been as strongly assailed on internal evidence.

On the 8th of January 1705, Handel’s first opera, Almira, was performed at Hamburg with great success, and was followed a few weeks later by another work, entitled Nero. Nero is lost, but Almira, with its mixture of Italian and German language and form, remains as a valuable example of the tendencies of the time and of Handel’s eclectic methods. It contains many themes used by Handel in well-known later works; but the current statement that the famous aria in Rinaldo, “Lascia ch’io pianga,” comes from a saraband in Almira, is based upon nothing more definite than the inevitable resemblance between the simplest possible forms of saraband-rhythm.

In 1706 Handel left Hamburg for Italy, where he remained for three years, rapidly acquiring the smooth Italian vocal style which hereafter always characterized his work. He had before this refused offers from noble patrons to send him there, but had now saved enough money, not only to support his mother at home, but to travel as his own master. He divided his time in Italy between Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice; and many anecdotes are preserved of his meetings with Corelli, Lotti, Alessandro Scarlatti and Domenico Scarlatti, whose wonderful harpsichord technique still has a direct bearing on some of the most modern features of pianoforte style. Handel soon became famous as Il Sassone (“the Saxon”), and it is said that Domenico on first hearing him play incognito exclaimed, “It is either the devil or the Saxon!” Then there is a story of Corelli’s coming to grief over a passage in Handel’s overture to Il Trionfo del tempo, in which the violins went up to A in altissimo. Handel impatiently snatched the violin to show Corelli how the passage ought to be played, and Corelli, who had never written or played beyond the third position in his life (this passage being in the seventh), said gently, “My dear Saxon, this music is in the French style, which I do not understand.” In Italy Handel produced two operas, Rodrigo and Agrippina, the latter a very important work, of which the splendid overture was remodelled forty-four years afterwards as that of his last original oratorio, Jephtha. He also produced two oratorios, La Resurrezione, and Il Trionfo del tempo. This, forty-six years afterwards, formed the basis of his last work. The Triumph of Time and Truth, which contains no original matter. All Handel’s early works contain material that he used often with very little alteration later on, and, though the famous “Lascia ch’io pianga” does not occur in Almira, it occurs note for note in Agrippina and the two Italian oratorios. On the other hand the cantata Aci, Galattea e Polifemo has nothing in common with Acis and Galatea. Besides these larger works there are several choral and solo cantatas of which the earliest, such as the great Dixit Dominus, show in their extravagant vocal difficulty how radical was the change which Handel’s Italian experience so rapidly effected in his methods.

Handel’s success in Italy established his fame and led to his receiving at Venice in 1709 the offer of the post of Kapellmeister to the elector of Hanover, transmitted to him by Baron Kielmansegge, his patron and staunch friend of later years. Handel at the time contemplated a visit to England, and he accepted this offer on condition of leave of absence being granted to him for that purpose. To England accordingly Handel journeyed after a short stay at Hanover, arriving in London towards the close of 1710. He came as a composer of Italian opera, and earned his first success at the Haymarket with Rinaldo, composed, to the consternation of the hurried librettist, in a fortnight, and first performed on the 24th of February 1711. In this opera the aria “Lascia ch’io pianga” found its final home. The work was produced with the utmost magnificence, and Addison’s delightful reviews of it in the Spectator poked fun at it from an unmusical point of view in a way that sometimes curiously foreshadows the criticisms that Gluck might have made on such things at a later period. The success was so great, especially for Walsh the publisher, that Handel proposed that Walsh should compose the next opera, and that he should publish it. He returned to Hanover at the close of the opera season, and composed a good deal of vocal chamber music for the princess Caroline, the step-daughter of the elector, besides the instrumental works known to us as the oboe concertos. In 1712 Handel returned to London and spent a year with Andrews, a rich musical amateur, in Barn Elms, Surrey. Three more years were spent in Burlington, in the neighbourhood of London. He evidently was but little inclined to return to Hanover, in spite of his duties to the court there. Two Italian operas and the Utrecht Te Deum written by the command of Queen Anne are the principal works of this period. It was somewhat awkward for the composer when his deserted master came to London in 1714 as George I. of England. For some time Handel did not venture to appear at court, and it was only at the intercession of Baron Kielmansegge that his pardon was obtained. By his advice Handel wrote the Water Music which was performed at a royal water party on the Thames, and it so pleased the king that he at once received the composer into his good graces and granted him a salary of £400 a year. Later Handel became music master to the little princesses and was given an additional £200 by the princess Caroline. In 1716 he followed the king to Germany, where he wrote a second German Passion to the popular poem of Brockes, a text which, divested of its worst features, forms the basis of several of the arias in Bach’s Passion according to St John. This was Handel’s last work to a German text.

On his return to England he entered the service of the duke of Chandos as conductor of his concerts, receiving a thousand pounds for his first oratorio Esther. The music which Handel wrote for performance at “Cannons,” the duke of Chandos’s residence at Edgware, is comprised in the first version of Esther, Acis and Galatea, and the twelve Chandos Anthems, which are compositions approximately in the same form as Bach’s church cantatas but without any systematic use of chorale tunes. The fashionable Londoner would travel 9 miles in those days to the little chapel of Whitchurch to hear Handel’s music, and all that now remains of the magnificent scene of these visits is the church, which is the parish church of Edgware. In 1720 Handel appeared again in a public capacity as impresario of the Italian opera at the Haymarket theatre, which he managed for the institution called the Royal Academy of Music. Senesino, a famous singer, to engage whom Handel especially journeyed to Dresden, was the mainstay of the enterprise, which opened with a highly successful performance of Handel’s opera Radamisto. To this time belongs the famous rivalry between Handel and Buononcini, a melodious Italian composer whom many thought to be the greater of the two. The controversy has been perpetuated in John Byrom’s lines:

“Some say, compared to Buononcini
⁠That Mynheer Handel’s but a ninny;
⁠Others aver that he to Handel
⁠Is scarcely fit to hold a candle.
⁠Strange all this difference should be
⁠Twixt tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee.”

It must be remembered that at this time Handel had not yet asserted his greatness as a choral writer; the fashionable ideas of music and musicianship were based entirely upon success in Italian opera, and the contest between the rival composers was waged on the basis of works which have fallen into almost as complete an oblivion in Handel’s case as in Buononcini’s. None of Handel’s forty-odd Italian operas can be said to survive, except in some two or three detached arias out of each opera; arias which reveal their essential qualities far better in isolation than when performed in groups of between twenty and thirty on the stage, as interruptions to the action of a classical drama to which nobody paid the slightest attention. But even within these limits Handel’s artistic resources were too great to leave the issue in doubt; and when Handel wrote the third act of an opera Muzio Scevola, of which Buononcini and Ariosti[1] wrote the other two, his triumph was decisive, especially as Buononcini soon got into discredit by failing to defend himself against the charge of producing as a prize-madrigal of his own a composition which proved to be by Lotti. At all events Buononcini left London, and Handel for the next ten years was without a rival in his ventures as an operatic composer. He was not, however, without a rival as an impresario; and the hostile competition of a rival company which obtained the services of the great Farinelli and also induced Senesino to desert him, led to his bankruptcy in 1737, and to an attack of paralysis caused by anxiety and overwork. The rival company also had to be dissolved from want of support, so that Handel’s misfortunes must not be attributed to any failure to maintain his position in the musical world. Handel’s artistic conscience was that of the most easy-going opportunist, or he would never have continued till 1741 to work in a field that gave so little scope for his genius. But the public seemed to want operas, and, if opera had no scope for his genius, at all events he could supply better operas with greater rapidity and ease than any three other living composers working together. And this he naturally continued to do so long as it seemed to be the best way to keep up his reputation. But with all this artistic opportunism he was not a man of tact, and there are numerous stories of the type of his holding the great primadonna donna Cuzzoni at arm’s-length out of a window and threatening to drop her unless she consented to sing a song which she had declared unsuitable to her style.

Already before his last opera, Deidamia, produced in 1741, Handel had been making a growing impression with his oratorios. In these, freed from the restrictions of the stage, he was able to give scope to his genius for choral writing, and so to develop, or rather revive, that art of chorus singing which is the normal outlet for English musical talent. In 1726 Handel had become a naturalized Englishman, and in 1733 he began his public career as a composer of English texts by producing the second and larger version of Esther at the King’s theatre. This was followed early in the same year by Deborah, in which the share of the chorus is much greater. In July he produced Athalia at Oxford, the first work in which his characteristic double choruses appear. The share of the chorus increases in Saul (1738); and Israel in Egypt (also 1738) is practically entirely a choral work, the solo movements, in spite of their fame, being as perfunctory in character as they are few in number. It was not unnatural that the public, who still considered Italian opera the highest, because the most modern form of musical art, obliged Handel at subsequent performances of this gigantic work to insert more solos.

The Messiah was produced at Dublin on the 13th of April 1742. Samson (which Handel preferred to the Messiah) appeared at Covent Garden on the 2nd of March 1744; Belshazzar at the King’s theatre, 27th of March 1745; the Occasional Oratorio (chiefly a compilation of the earlier oratorios, but with a few important new numbers), on the 14th of February 1746 at Covent Garden, where all his later oratorios were produced; Judas Maccabaeus on the 1st of April 1747; Joshua on the 9th of March 1748; Alexander Balus on the 23rd of March 1748; Solomon on the 17th of March 1749; Susanna, spring of 1749; Theodora, a great favourite of Handel’s, who was much disappointed by its cold reception, on the 16th of March 1750; Jephtha (strictly speaking, his last work) on the 26th of February 1752, and The Triumph of Time and Truth (transcribed from Il Trionfo del tempo with the addition of many later favourite numbers), 1757. Other important works, indistinguishable in artistic form from oratorios, but on secular subjects, are Alexander’s Feast, 1736; Ode for St Cecilia’s Day (words by Dryden); L’Allegro, il pensieroso ed il moderato (the words of the third part by Jennens), 1740; Semele, 1744; Hercules, 1745; and The Choice of Hercules, 1751.

By degrees the enmity against Handel died away, though he had many troubles. In 1745 he had again become bankrupt; for, although he had no rival as a composer of choral music it was possible for his enemies to give balls and banquets on the nights of his oratorio performances. As with his first bankruptcy, so in his later years, he showed scrupulous sense of honour in discharging his debts, and he continued to work hard to the end of his life. He had not only completely recovered his financial position by the year 1750, but he must have made a good deal of money, for he then presented an organ to the Foundling Hospital, and opened it with a performance of the Messiah on the 15th of May. In 1751 his sight began to trouble him; and the autograph of Jephtha, published in facsimile by the Händelgesellschaft, shows pathetic traces of this in his handwriting,[2] and so affords a most valuable evidence of his methods of composition, all the accompaniments, recitatives, and less essential portions of the work being evidently filled in long after the rest. He underwent unsuccessful operations, one of them by the same surgeon who had operated on Bach’s eyes. There is evidence that he was able to see at intervals during his last years, but his sight practically never returned after May 1752. He continued superintending performances of his works and writing new arias for them, or inserting revised old ones, and he attended a performance of the Messiah a week before his death, which took place, according to the Public Advertiser of the 16th of April, not on Good Friday, the 13th of April, according to his own pious wish and according to common report, but on the 14th of April 1759. He was buried in Westminster Abbey; and his monument is by L. F. Roubilliac, the same sculptor who modelled the marble statue erected in 1739 in Vauxhall Gardens, where his works had been frequently performed.

Handel was a man of high character and intelligence, and his interest was not confined to his own art exclusively. He liked the society of politicians and literary men, and he was also a collector of pictures and articles of vertu. His power of work was enormous, and the Händelgesellschaft’s edition of his complete works fills one hundred volumes, forming a total bulk almost equal to the works of Bach and Beethoven together. (F. H.; D. F. T.) 

No one has more successfully popularized the greatest artistic ideals than Handel; no artist is more disconcerting to critics who imagine that a great man’s mental development is easy to follow. Not even Wagner effected a greater transformation in the possibilities of dramatic music Handel as composer.than Handel effected in oratorio, yet we have seen that Handel was the very opposite of a reformer. He was not even conservative, and he hardly took the pains to ascertain what an art-form was, so long as something externally like it would convey his idea. But he never failed to convey his idea, and, if the hybrid forms in which he conveyed it had no historic influence and no typical character, they were none the less accurate in each individual case. The same aptness and the same absence of method are conspicuous in his style. The popular idea that Handel’s style is easily recognizable comes from the fact that he overshadows all his predecessors and contemporaries, except Bach, and so makes us regard typical 18th-century Italian and English style as Handelian, instead of regarding Handel’s style as typical Italian 18th-century. Nothing in music requires more minute expert knowledge than the sifting of the real peculiarities of Handel’s style from the mass of contemporary formulae which in his inspired pages he absorbed, and which in his uninspired pages absorbed him.

His easy mastery was acquired, like Mozart’s, in childhood. The later sonatas for two oboes and bass which he wrote in his eleventh year are, except in their diffuseness and an occasional slip in grammar, indistinguishable from his later works, and they show a boyish inventiveness worthy of Mozart’s work at the same age. Such early choral works, as the Dixit Dominus (1707), show the ill-regulated power of his choral writing before he assimilated Italian influences. Its practical difficulties are at least as extravagant as Bach’s, while they are not accounted for by any corresponding originality and necessity of idea; but the grandeur of the scheme and nobility of thought is already that for which Handel so often in later years found the simplest and easiest adequate means of expression that music has ever attained. His eminently practical genius soon formed his vocal style, and long before the period of his great oratorios, such works as The Birthday Ode for Queen Anne (1713) and the Utrecht Te Deum show not a trace of German extravagance. The only drawback to his practical genius was that it led him to bury perhaps half of his finest melodies, and nearly all the secular features of interest in his treatment of instruments and of the aria forms, in that deplorable limbo of vanity, the 18th-century Italian opera. It is not true, as has been alleged against him, that his operas are in no way superior to those of his contemporaries; but neither is it true that he stirred a finger to improve the condition of dramatic musical art. He was no slave to singers, as is amply testified by many anecdotes. Nor was he bound by the operatic conventions of the time. In Teseo he not only wrote an opera in five acts when custom prescribed three, but also broke a much more plausible rule in arranging that each character should have two arias in succession. He also showed a feeling for expression and style which led him to write arias of types which singers might not expect. But he never made any innovation which had the slightest bearing upon the stage-craft of opera, for he never concerned himself with any artistic question beyond the matter in hand; and the matter in hand was not to make dramatic music, or to make the story interesting or intelligible, but simply to provide a concert of between some twenty and thirty Italian arias and duets, wherein singers could display their abilities and spectators find distraction from the monotony of so large a dose of the aria form (which was then the only possibility for solo vocal music) in the gorgeousness of the dresses and scenery.

When the question arose how a musical entertainment of this kind could be managed in Lent without protests from the bishop of London, Handelian oratorio came into being as a matter of course. But though Handel was an opportunist he was not shallow. His artistic sense seized upon the natural possibilities which arose as soon as the music was transferred from the stage to the concert platform; and his first English oratorio, Esther (1720), beautifully shows the transition. The subject is as nearly secular as any that can be extracted from the Bible, and the treatment was based on Racine’s Esther, which was much discussed at the time. Handel’s oratorio was reproduced in an enlarged version in 1732 at the King’s theatre: the princess royal wished for scenery and action, but the bishop of London protested. And the choruses, of which in the first version there are already no less than ten, are on the one hand operatic and unecclesiastical in expression, until the last, where polyphonic work on a large scale first appears; but on the other hand they are all much too long to be sung by heart, as is necessary in operas. In fact, the turning-point in Handel’s development is the emancipation of the chorus from theatrical limitations. This had as great effect upon his few but important secular English works as upon his other oratorios. Acis and Galatea, Semele and Hercules, are in fact secular oratorios; the choral music in them is not ecclesiastical, but it is large, independent and polyphonic.

We must remember, then, that Handel’s scheme of oratorio is operatic in its origin and has no historic connexion with such principles as might have been generalized from the practice of the German Passion music of the time; and it is sufficiently astonishing that the chorus should have so readily assumed its proper place in a scheme which the public certainly regarded as a sort of Lenten biblical opera. And, although the chorus owes its freedom of development to the disappearance of theatrical necessities, it becomes no less powerful as a means of dramatic expression (as opposed to dramatic action) than as a purely musical resource. Already in Athalia the “Hallelujah” chorus at the end of the first act is a marvel of dramatic truth. It is sung by Israelites almost in despair beneath usurping tyranny; and accordingly it is a severe double fugue in a minor key, expressive of devout courage at a moment of depression. On purely musical grounds it is no less powerful in throwing into the highest possible relief the ecstatic solemnity of the psalm with which the second act opens. Now this sombre “Hallelujah” chorus is a very convenient illustration of Handel’s originality, and the point in which his creative power really lies. It was not originally written for its situation in Athalia, but it was chosen for it. It was originally the last chorus of the second version of the anthem, As pants the Hart, from the autograph of which it is missing because Handel cut out the last pages in order to insert them into the manuscript of Athalia. The inspiration in Athalia thus lies not in the creation of the chorus itself, but in the choice of it.

In choral music Handel made no more innovation than he made in arias. His sense of fitness in expression was of little use to him in opera, because opera could not become dramatic until musical form became capable of developing and blending emotions in all degrees of climax in a way that may be described as pictorial and not merely decorative (see Music; Sonata-Forms; and Instrumentation). But in oratorio there was not the least necessity for reforming any art-forms. The ordinary choral resources of the time had perfect expressive possibilities where there were no actors to keep waiting, and where no dresses and scenery need distract the attention of the listener. When lastly, ordinary decorum dictated an attitude of reverent attention towards the subject of the oratorio, then the man of genius could find such a scope for his real sense of dramatic fitness as would make his work immortal.

In estimating Handel’s greatness we must think away all orthodox musical and progressive prejudices, and learn to apply the lessons critics of architecture and some critics of literature seem to know by nature. Originality, in music as in other arts, lies in the whole, and in a sense of the true meaning of every part. When Handel wrote a normal double fugue in a minor key on the word “Hallelujah” he showed that he at all events knew what a vigorous and dignified thing an 18th-century double fugue could be. In putting it at the end of a melancholy psalm he showed his sense of the value of the minor mode. When he put it in its situation in Athalia he showed as perfect a sense of dramatic and musical fitness as could well be found in art. Now it is obvious that in works like oratorios (which are dramatic schemes vigorously but loosely organized by the putting together of some twenty or thirty complete pieces of music) the proper conception of originality will be very different from that which animates the composer of modern lyric, operatic or symphonic music. When we add to this the characteristics of a method like Handel’s, in which musical technique has become a masterly automatism, it becomes evident that our conception of originality must be at least as broad as that which we would apply in the criticism of architecture. The disadvantages of the want of such a conception have been aggravated by the dearth of general knowledge of the structure of musical art; a knowledge which shows that the parallel we have suggested between music and architecture, as regards the nature of originality, is no mere figure of speech.

In every art there is an antithesis between form and matter, which becomes reconciled only when the work of art is perfect in its execution. And, whatever this perfection, the antithesis must always remain in the mind of the artist and critic to this extent, that some part of the material seems to be the special subject of technical rule rather than another. In the plastic and literary arts one type of this antithesis is more or less permanently maintained in the relation between subject and treatment. The mere fact that these arts express themselves by representing things that have some previous independent existence, helps us to look for originality rather in the things that make for perfection of treatment than in novelty of subject. But in music we have no permanent means of deciding which of many aspects we shall call the subject and which the treatment. In the 16th century the a priori form existed mainly in the practice of basing almost every melodic detail of the work on phrases of Gregorian chant or popular song, treated for the most part in terms of very definitely regulated polyphonic design, and on harmonic principles regulated in almost every detail by the relation between the melodic aspects of the church modes and the necessity for occasional alterations of the strict mode to secure finality at the close. In modern music such a relation between form and matter, prescribing as it does for every aspect at every moment both of the shape and the texture of the music, would exclude the element of invention altogether. In 16th-century music it by no means had that effect. An inventive 16th-century composer is as clearly distinguishable from a dull one as a good architect from a bad. The originality of the composer resides, in 16th-century music as in all art, in his whole work; but naturally his conception of property and ideas will not extend to themes or isolated passages. That man is entitled to an idea who can show what it means, or who can make it mean what he likes. Let him wear the giant’s robe if it fits him. And it is merely a local difference in point of view which makes us think that there is property in themes and no property in forms. Nowadays we happen to regard the shape of a whole composition as its form, and its theme as its matter. And, as artistic organization becomes more complex and heterogeneous, the need of the broadest and most forcible possible outline of design is more pressingly felt; so that in what we choose to call form we are willing to sacrifice all conception of originality for the sake of general intelligibility, while we insist upon complete originality in those thematic details which we are pleased to call matter. But, if this explains, it does not excuse our setting up a criterion for musical originality which can be accepted by no intelligent critics of other arts, and which is completely upset by the study of any music earlier than the beginning of the 19th century.

The difficulty many writers have found in explaining the subject of Handel’s “plagiarisms” is not entirely accounted for by mere lack of these considerations; but the grossest confusion of ideas as to the difference between cases in point prevails to this day, and many discussions which have been raised in regard to the ethical aspect of the question are frankly absurd.[3] It has been argued, for instance, that great injustice was done to Buononcini over his unfortunate affair with the prize madrigal, while his great rival was allowed the credit of Israel in Egypt, which contains a considerable number of entire choruses (besides hosts of themes) by earlier Italian and German writers. But the very idea of Handelian oratorio is that of some three hours of music, religious or secular, arranged, like opera, in the form of a colossal entertainment, and with high dramatic and emotional interest imparted to it, if not by the telling of a story, at all events by the nature and development of the subject. It seems, moreover, to be entirely overlooked that the age was an age of pasticcios. Nothing was more common than the organization of some such solemn entertainment by the skilful grouping of favourite pieces. Handel himself never revived one of his oratorios without inserting in it favourite pieces from his other works as well as several new numbers; and the story is well known that the turning point in Gluck’s career was his perception of the true possibilities of dramatic music from the failure of a pasticcio in which he had reset some rather definitely expressive music to situations for which it was not originally designed. The success of an oratorio was due to the appropriateness of its contrasts, together of course with the mastery of its detail, whether that detail were new or old; and there are many gradations between a réchauffé of an early work like The Triumph of Time and Truth, or a pasticcio with a few original numbers like the Occasional Oratorio, and such works as Samson, which was entirely new except that the “Dead March” first written for it was immediately replaced by the more famous one imported from Saul. That the idea of the pasticcio was extremely familiar to the age is shown by the practice of announcing an oratorio as “new and original,” a term which would obviously be meaningless if it were as much a matter of course as it is at the present day, and which, if used at all, must obviously so apply to the whole work without forbidding the composer from gratifying the public with the reproduction of one or two favourite arias. But of course the question of originality becomes more serious when the imported numbers are not the composer’s own. And here it is very noticeable that Handel derived no credit, either with his own public or with us, from whole movements that are not of his own designing. In Israel in Egypt, the choruses “Egypt was glad when they departed,” “And I will exalt Him,” “Thou sentest forth Thy Wrath” and “The Earth swallowed them,” are without exception the most colourless and unattractive pieces of severe counterpoint to be found among Handel’s works; and it is very difficult to fathom his motive in copying them from obscure pieces by Erba and Kaspar Kerl, unless it be that he wished to train his audiences to a better understanding of a polyphonic style. He certainly felt that the greatest possibilities of music lay in the higher choral polyphony, and so in Israel in Egypt he designed a work consisting almost entirely of choruses, and may have wished in these instances for severe contrapuntal movements which he had not time to write, though he could have done them far better himself. Be this as it may, these choruses have certainly added nothing to the popularity of a work of which the public from the outset complained that there was not enough solo music; and what effect they have is merely to throw Handel’s own style into relief. To draw any parallel between the theft of such unattractive details in the grand and intensely Handelian scheme of Israel in Egypt and Buononcini’s alleged theft of a prize madrigal is merely ridiculous. Handel himself, if he had any suspicion that contemporaries did not take a sane architect’s view of the originality of large musical schemes,[4] probably gave himself no more trouble about their scruples on this matter than about other forms of musical banality.

The History of Music by Burney, the cleverest and most refined musical critic of the age, shows in the very freshness of its musical scholarship how completely unscholarly were the musical ideas of the time. Burney was incapable of regarding choral music as other than a highly improving academic exercise in which he himself was proficient; and for him Handel is the great opera-writer whose choral music will reward the study of the curious. If Handel had attempted to explain his methods to the musicians of his age, he would probably have found himself alone in his opinions as to the property of musical ideas. He did not trouble to explain, but he made no concealment of his sources. He left his whole musical library to his copyist, and it was from this that the sources of his work were discovered. And when the whole series of plagiarisms is studied, the fact forces itself upon us that nothing except themes and forms which are common property in all 18th-century music, has yet been discovered as the source of any work of Handel’s which is not felt as part of a larger design. Operatic arias were never felt as parts of a whole. The opera was a concert on the stage, and it stood or fell, not by a dramatic propriety which it notoriously neglected to consider at all, but by the popularity of its arias. There is no aria in Handel’s operas which is traceable to another composer. Even in the oratorios there is no solo number in which more than the themes are pilfered, for in oratorios the solo work still appealed to the popular criterion of novelty and individual attractiveness. And when we leave the question of copying of whole movements and come to that of the adaptation of passages, and still more of themes, Handel shows himself to be simply on a line with Mozart. Jahn compares the opening of Mozart’s Requiem with that of the first chorus in Handel’s Funeral Anthem. Mozart recreates at least as much from Handel’s already perfect framework as Handel ever idealized from the inorganic fragments of earlier writers. The double counterpoint of the Kyrie in Mozart’s Requiem is still more indisputably identical with that of the last chorus of Handel’s Joseph, and if the themes are common property their combination certainly is not. But the true plagiarist is the man who does not know the meaning of the ideas he copies, and the true creator is he in whose hands they remain or become true ideas. The theme “He led them forth like sheep” in the chorus “But as for his people” is one of the most beautiful in Handel’s works, and the bare statement that it comes from a serenata by Stradella seems at first rather shocking. But, to any one who knew Stradella’s treatment of it first, Handel’s would come as a revelation actually greater than if he had never heard the theme before. Stradella makes nothing more of it, and therefore presumably sees nothing more in it than an agreeable and essentially frivolous little tune which lends itself to comic dramatic purpose by a wearisome repetition throughout eight pages of patchy aria and instrumental ritornello at an ever-increasing pace. What Handel sees in it is what he makes of it, one of the most solemn and poetic things in music. Again, it may be very shocking to discover that the famous opening of the “Hailstone chorus” comes from the patchy and facetious overture to this same serenata, with which it is identical for ten bars all in the tonic chord (representing, according to Stradella, someone knocking at a door). And it is no doubt yet more shocking that the chorus “He spake the word, and there came all manner of flies” contains no idea of Handel’s own except the realistic swarming violin-passages, the general structure, and the vocal colouring; whereas the rhythmic and melodic figures of the voice parts come from an equally patchy sinfonia concertata in Stradella’s work. The real interest of these things ought not to be denied either by the misstatement that the materials adapted are mere common property, nor by the calumny that Handel was uninventive.

The effects of Handel’s original inspiration upon foreign material are really the best indication of the range of his style. The comic meaning of the broken rhythm of Stradella’s overture becomes indeed Handel’s inspiration in the light of the gigantic tone-picture of the “Hailstone chorus.” In the theme of “He led them forth like sheep” we have already cited a particular case where Handel perceived great solemnity in a theme originally intended to be frivolous. The converse process is equally instructive. In the short Carillon choruses in Saul where the Israelitish women welcome David after his victory over Goliath, Handel uses a delightful instrumental tune which stands at the beginning of a Te Deum by Urio, from which he borrowed an enormous amount of material in Saul, L’Allegro, the Dettingen Te Deum and other works. Urio’s idea is first to make a jubilant and melodious noise from the lower register of the strings, and then to bring out a flourish of high trumpets as a contrast. He has no other use for his beautiful tune, which indeed would not bear more elaborate treatment than he gives it. The ritornello falls into statement and counterstatement, and the counterstatement secures one repetition of the tune, after which no more is heard of it. It has none of the solemnity of church music, and its value as a contrast to the flourish of trumpets depends, not upon itself, but upon its position in the orchestra. Handel did not see in it a fine opening for a great ecclesiastical work, but he saw in it an admirable expression of popular jubilation, and he understood how to bring out its character with the liveliest sense of climax and dramatic interest by taking it at its own value as a popular tune. So he uses it as an instrumental interlude accompanied with a jingle of carillons, while the daughters of Israel sing to a square-cut tune those praises of David which aroused the jealousy of Saul. But now turn to the opening of the Dettingen Te Deum and see what splendid use is made of the other side of Urio’s idea, the contrast between a jubilant noise in the lowest part of the scale and the blaze of trumpets at an extreme height. In the fourth bar of the Dettingen Te Deum we find the same florid trumpet figures as we find in the fifth bar of Urio’s, but at the first moment they are on oboes. The first four bars beat a tattoo on the tonic and dominant, with the whole orchestra, including trumpets and drums, in the lowest possible position and in a stirring rhythm with a boldness and simplicity characteristic only of a stroke of genius. Then the oboes appear with Urio’s trumpet flourishes; the momentary contrast is at least as brilliant as Urio’s; and as the oboes are immediately followed by the same figures on the trumpets themselves the contrast gains incalculably in subtlety and climax. Moreover, these flourishes are more melodious than the broad and massive opening, instead of being, as in Urio’s scheme, incomparably less so. Lastly, Handel’s primitive opening rhythmic figures inevitably underlie every subsequent inner part and bass that occurs at every half close and full close throughout the movement, especially where the trumpets are used. And thus every detail of his scheme is rendered alive with a rhythmic significance which the elementary nature of the theme prevents from ever becoming obtrusive.

No other great composer has ever so overcrowded his life with occasional and mechanical work as Handel, and in no other artist are the qualities that make the difference between inspired and uninspired pages more difficult to analyse. The libretti of his oratorios are full of absurdities, except when they are derived in every detail from Scripture, as in the Messiah and Israel in Egypt, or from the classics of English literature, as in Samson and L’Allegro. These absurdities, and the obvious fact that in every oratorio Handel writes many more numbers than are desirable for one performance, and that he was continually in later performances adding, transferring and cutting out solo numbers and often choruses as well—all this may seem at first sight to militate seriously against the view that Handel’s originality and greatness consists in his grasp of the works as wholes, but in reality it strengthens that view. These things militate against the perfection of the whole, but they would have been absolutely fatal to a work of which the whole is not (as in all true art) greater than the sum of its parts. That they are felt as absurdities and defects already shows that Handel created in English oratorio a true art-form on the largest possible scale.

There never has been a time when Handel has been overrated, except in so far as other composers have been neglected. But no composer has suffered so much from pious misinterpretation and the popular admiration of misleading externals. It is not the place here to dilate upon the burial of Handel’s art beneath the “mammoth” performances of the Handel Festivals at the Crystal Palace; nor can we give more than a passing reference to the effects of “additional accompaniments” in the style of an altogether later age, started most unfortunately by Mozart (whose share in the work has been very much misinterpreted and corrupted) and continued in the middle of the 19th century by musicians of every degree of intelligence and refinement, until all sense of unity of style has been lost and does not seem likely to be recovered as a general element in the popular appreciation of Handel for some time to come. But in spite of this, Handel will never cease to be revered and loved as one of the greatest of composers, if we value the criteria of architectonic power, a perfect sense of style, and the power to rise to the most sublime height of musical climax by the simplest means.

Handel’s important works have all been mentioned above with their dates, and a separate detailed list does not seem necessary. He was an extremely rapid worker, and his later works are dated almost day by day as they proceed. From this we learn that the Messiah was sketched and scored within twenty-one days, and that even Jephtha, with an interruption of nearly four months besides several other delays caused by Handel’s failing sight, was begun and finished within seven months, representing hardly five weeks’ actual writing. Handel’s extant works may be roughly summarized from the edition of the Händelgesellschaft as 41 Italian operas, 2 Italian oratorios, 2 German Passions, 18 English oratorios, 4 English secular oratorios, 4 English secular cantatas, and a few other small works, English and Italian, of the type of oratorio or incidental dramatic music; 3 Latin settings of the Te Deum; the (English) Dettingen Te Deum and Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate; 4 coronation anthems; 3 volumes of English anthems (Chandos Anthems); 1 volume of Latin church music; 3 volumes of Italian vocal chamber-music; 1 volume of clavier works; 37 instrumental duets and trios (sonatas), and 4 volumes of orchestral music and organ concertos (about 40 works). Precise figures are impossible as there is no means of drawing the line between pasticcios and original works. The instrumental pieces especially are used again and again as overtures to operas and oratorios and anthems.

The complete edition of the German Händelgesellschaft suffers from being the work of one man who would not recognize that his task was beyond any single man’s power. The best arrangements of the vocal scores are undoubtedly those published by Novello that are not based on “additional accompaniments.” None is absolutely trustworthy, and those of the editor of the German Händelgesellschaft are sad proofs of the uselessness of expert library-scholarship without a sound musical training. Yet Chrysander’s services in the restoration of Handel are beyond praise. We need only mention his discovery of authentic trombone parts in Israel in Egypt as one among many of his priceless contributions to musical history and aesthetics. (D. F. T.) 


  1. Chrysander says Mattei instead of Ariosti.
  2. By a dramatic coincidence Handel’s blindness interrupted him during the writing of the chorus, “How dark, oh Lord, are Thy decrees, ... all our joys to sorrow turning ... as the night succeeds the day.”
  3. The “moral” question has been raised afresh in reviews of Mr Sedley Taylor’s admirable volume of analysed illustrations (The Indebtedness of Handel to works of other Composers, Cambridge, 1906). The latest argument is that Handel shows moral obliquity in borrowing “regrettably” from sources no one could know at the time. This reasoning makes it mysterious that a man of such moral obliquity should ever have written a note of his own music in England when he could have stolen the complete choral works of Bach and most of the hundred operas of Alessandro Scarlatti with the certainty that the sources would not be printed for a century after his death, even if his own name did not then check curiosity among antiquarians. Of course Handel’s plagiarisms would have damaged his reputation if contemporaries had known of them. His polyphonic scholarship was more “antiquated” in the 18th century than it is in the 20th.
  4. Much light would be thrown on the subject if some one sufficiently ignorant of architecture were to make researches into Sir Christopher Wren’s indebtedness to Italian architects!