George Frideric Handel (23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759) was a German-British Baroque composer well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, concerti grossi, and organ concertos. Handel received his training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712, where he spent the bulk of his career and became a naturalised British subject in 1727. He was strongly influenced both by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition and by composers of the Italian Baroque.
In turn, Handel’s music forms one of the peaks of the “high baroque” style, bringing Italian opera to its highest development, creating the genres of English oratorio and organ concerto, and introducing a new style into English church music. He is consistently recognized as one of the greatest composers of his age.
Handel started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera. In 1737, he had a physical breakdown, changed direction creatively, and addressed the middle class and made a transition to English choral works.
After his success with Messiah (1742), he never composed an Italian opera again. His orchestral Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks remain steadfastly popular. One of his four coronation anthems, Zadok the Priest, has been performed at every British coronation since 1727. Almost blind, he died in 1759, a respected and rich man, and was given a state funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Handel composed more than forty opere serie over a period of more than thirty years. Since the late 1960s, interest in Handel’s music has grown. The musicologist Winton Dean wrote that “Handel was not only a great composer; he was a dramatic genius of the first order.” His music was admired by Classical-era composers, including Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.