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Life of George Frederic Handel

The son of a barber-surgeon, George Frederic Handel showed a marked gift for music and became a pupil in Halle of the composer Friedrich W. Zachow, learning the principles of keyboard performance and composition from him. His father died when Handel was 11, but his education had been provided for, and in 1702 he enrolled as a law student at the University of Halle. He also became organist of the Reformed (Calvinist) Cathedral in Halle, but he served for only one year before going north to Hamburg, where greater opportunities awaited him. In Hamburg, Handel joined the violin section of the opera orchestra. He also took over some of the duties of harpsichordist, and early in 1705 he presided over the premiere in Hamburg of his first opera, Almira. Handel spent the years 1706-10 traveling in Italy, where he met many of the greatest Italian musicians of the day, including Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti and his son Domenico. He composed many works in Italy, including two operas, numerous Italian solo cantatas (vocal compositions), Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno (1707) and another oratorio, the serenata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo (1708), and some Latin (i.e., Roman Catholic) church music. His opera Agrippina enjoyed a sensational success at its premiere in Venice in 1709. Handel's years in Italy greatly influenced the development of his musical style. His fame had spread throughout Italy, and his mastery of the Italian opera style now made him an international figure. In 1710 he was appointed Kapellmeister to the elector of Hanover, the future King George I of England, and later that year Handel journeyed to England. In 1711 his opera Rinaldo was performed in London and was greeted so enthusiastically that Handel sensed the possibility of continuing popularity and prosperity in England. In 1712 he went back to London for the production of his operas Il pastor fido and Teseo. In 1713 he won his way into royal favour by his Od...

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