A great European composer
German composer George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) represents today with Bach the pinnacle of Baroque music.
He is one of the first composers and artists to have been internationally renowned during his lifetime, a success that still continues to this day. Yet the history between Handel and classical music had started off badly: his father hated this art as he saw it as a sign of weakness in men and banned him from playing for many years. Despite this ban, Handel still learned how to play the organ and harpsichord, the ancestor of the piano. Then everything went very quickly, and before the age of 11, Handel had already learned how to play the organ, the harpsichord and violin at the highest level. The composition, harmony and counterpoint had no secrets for him.
It is easy to follow the works of this great composer that displays a wide range of emotions: his works can bring out feelings as diverse and delicate as fear, sadness, or the most sudden exhilaration. Handel is best known as a master composer for his oratorios (a kind of opera that has neither costume nor scenery), a kind of music that is becoming very popular, fast, and is still current in some English speaking countries. The secret of his art? Playing several styles and mixing them with such subtlety. Influenced by his countless travels, he combined the German, French, Italian and English traditions for extraordinary works that have met with success that we still know today.
Its refined style offers a dramatic effect that knows how to break traditional rules whilst also entertaining the audience.
On the other hand, Handel works without worrying about other artists and often composes very intensely for relatively short periods of time. The amount of works he produced is significant and some are particularly noteworthy: oratorios, operas, hymns, especially Dixit Dominus, Water Music, Salve Regina or the 8 suites for harpsichord (1720) are all definitely part of the musical scene. The 8 suites 1720 collection can be observed through the strong language of Handel who mixes up the various styles of the era. Handel also took the opportunity to break the traditional structure: although it is based on the French, it does not respect the current German grouping structure, Sarabande and gigue in order. The composer operates rather with a genuine European know-how both in form and in style, combining Italian patterns with a more Germanic counterpoint, especially in fugues suites in F major, D minor, F minor and F sharp minor, for example.
For our beginner course we offer piano transcription from Haendels opera HWV 40. Largo from Xerxes (Serse); "Ombra mai fu"
Lessons 59 à 63, to know details of our program, click here
It is also interesting to consider his most famous oratorio, Messiah, which was a rich and complex piece where he only need three weeks to complete it. Containing 50 sections and spanning over two and a half hours this masterpiece was written for an orchestra and a choir, consisting of five soloists (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass and contralto). The Messiah was led many times by Handel who had adapted the work according to each circumstance.
To complete the scope of music on the keyboard by this composer, you will need to include the concertos for the organ. The Cuckoo and the Nightingale is a prime example: this work is one of the most famous concertos by Handel, as it has the particularity to imitate the song of the birds in the second movement. This organ concerto in F major was written for a single instrument with an orchestra, and this shows that Handel was used to reworking his own music. In fact, it is possible to find similarities with the Concerto Grosso Opus 6, nº9 and Trio Sonatas No. 3 and 6, other feature works of this master composer.
In fact, the organ concertos were primarily used for interims between oratorios, and Handel himself would participate as a soloist adding wonderful improvisations to the piece. It is important to remember that in addition to being an accomplished composer, he was also an interpreter: he performed several times on the organ and harpsichord with the talent and the prominence that are unique to him.