Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1685, was born George Frederick Handel.  

Handel was a Baroque composer, noted for his Messiah and Water Music, and whose style marked the transition from the Baroque to the Classical eras.  

Handel was born in Germany, had a modest education in which music played a large part and at the age of 17, enrolled as a law student at the University of Halle. Handel became the organist at the Cathedral church of Halle and, torn between law studies and music, chose the latter. He moved to Hamburg, where he joined the opera orchestra and from there to Italy where he was introduced to the composers Scarletti and Correlli. Handel composed two operas and several cantatas. His opera Agippina was a sensation when performed in Venice in 1709.  

Handel was invited to become choirmaster for George Louis, Elector of Hanover, the future George I. He was advised to travel to London to the court of George’s aunt, Queen Anne, where he gained favour with his compositions Ode for the Queen’s Birthday and Jubilate. He was granted an allowance of £200 per annum to remain at court.  

British audiences were generally distrustful of the Italian style and so Handel changed his technique to give the public what they desired. He created oratorios using Biblical subjects, dramatically constructed, sung in English, and designed for concert performances. The best known of these is the Messiah and Zadoc the Priest, which was performed at the coronation of George II and every coronation since. His other major works include Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Judas Maccabacus.  

Handel died in 1759 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The house where he lived, 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HB, is now a museum in his honour.  Shortly before he died, Handel had attended a performance of the Messiah given by Tunbridge Wells Musical Society. The performance was so bad that Handel stormed out and returning home wrote a letter of protest ending with the words ‘God rot Tunbridge Wells’. This most terrible of all reviews gave rise to the tag ‘Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells’.

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