Showing posts with label Handel G. F.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Handel G. F.. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL and the Hallelujah Chorus

George Frederick Handel (23 February 1685 - 14 April 1759) was a German-English Baroque composer who was born in Halle, Germany (Halle is the largest city in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt.) Handel moved to Hamburg in 1703 after being unsatisfied as the organist at the local Protestant cathedral. He got a position as violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the opera house. In 1706 Handel travelled to Italy at the invitation of Gian Gastone de' Medici, whom Handel had met in 1703/1704 in Hamburg. In 1710, Handel moved to Hanover Germany to become Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover, who would become King George I of Great Britain in 1714. In that year Handel moved back to London and stayed there for 35 years with yearly salary for the rest of his life.

Handels was influenced by his father and the duke: Handel's father wanted him to become a lawyer and have nothing to do with music or playing an instrument however a clavichord was smuggled in with muffled strings so his father would not be able to hear him play. His father took him to Weissenfels where his playing on the chapel organ attracted the attention of the duke. The duke was amazed by Handel's abilities in the chapel that he insisted that Handel is allowed to study music. The duke thought it would be a crime to rob the world of such genius.

Handel wrote many works including:

Operas eg. Araphina which brought him fame in Italy in 1709 and Rinaldo which brought him fame in London in 1711
Dramatic Oratorios eg The Messiah in 1741 which is famous all around the world and Athalia in 1742 which is famous in Dublin
100 Cantatas and 20 Chamber Duets
Church Music eg. Gloria Patri (1707), Funeral Anthem (1707)
Orchestra-eg. Water Music (1717),
Instrumental And Chamber Music ~ Including 9 Trio Sonatas, 5 Concerti for Orchestra.
Vocal Music eg. Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (1713)

An oratorio is a musical play based on a bible story or scripture. It uses choruses, ensembles and solos to tell a story and usually, an organ or orchestra accompanies the singers. Oratorios are not acted out with costumes or props. The Messiah is an oratorio. You go along and listen to it or sing along to it near Christmas time. This is because The Messiah is about Christs' life and Christmas Day is his birthday.

The Messiah:
In 1741 Handel began putting Charles Jennens' Biblical libretto to music, and 24 days later Messiah was complete (August 22 - September 14). The Messiah was written because Handel was discouraged with his opera writing and after being sent libretto from Charles Jennings Handel felt inspired and immediately began setting the work to music. Legend says that when Handel had finished his work, a servant of his heard him exclaim "Hallelujah Chorus," "I did think I did see all of the heaven before me and the great God Himself!"

The Hallelujah Chorus:
A chorus is a musical ensemble of singers who perform the non-soloist parts of an opera or musical theatre production (or sometimes an oratorio). Handel was known as the master of the oratorio where no composer before or after has surpassed his abilities in writing them. The Hallelujah Chorus was typical of his writing because he wrote 27 oratorios in the later part of his life and wrote many operas which indicate he enjoyed composing music which consists of instruments and singing.

The Hallelujah Chorus is a typical piece of music written in the Baroque period because of the religious text used and the use of English to please the middle class. Religious text is found throughout the Hallelujah Chorus including in bars 36-51 where the text states that "He shall reign forever and ever." referring to Christ. Another thing that makes the Hallelujah Chorus typical of the Baroque period is the way Handel used a mix of homophonic, polyphonic and a small amount of monophonic texture eg. Bars 33-41 of the Hallelujah Chorus is homophonic and bars 41-51 are polyphonic.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


George Frederic Handel (1685 - 1759)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BACH And HANDEL (Their Influence On Future Composers)

Bach and Handel each in their own way were a great influence on later generations of composers. Both of them, in their own personal way, summed up the major styles of European music. Handel cultivated a concerto that was based the style of Correlli and Bach cultivated a concerto that was based on the style of Vivaldi. Handel perfected the Italian opera and the English Oratorio, while Bach perfected the cantata, the German Passion, and the Latin mass.

Bach and Handel
Handel's music relies more on melody and Bach's relies more on counterpoint. This is not to say that Bach couldn't compose good melodies or that Handel couldn't write good counterpoint. It is merely a general observation. Also Bach relied more on phrasing while Handel relied more on dynamics. Although they were both quite adept at using contrasts of texture to create interest, this technique was more important in Handel's music. Handel's music, for the most part, is more vocally oriented, and Bach's music is more instrumentally oriented. They both were masters of the great European styles of their time, but Handel was much more influenced by the Italian style than Bach, and Bach was more influenced by the German style. It should also be mentioned that Handel's music is easier to perform than Bach's. This is certainly one reason that Bach's music was not as popular in his lifetime as was that of Handel.

Let's discuss Bach's influence first. The most widely disseminated work of his in his own lifetime was the Well Tempered Clavier, a huge work, in two volumes, each volume containing a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key, totaling 48 pairs of preludes and fugues. This work is intended to be didactic as well as entertaining to the keyboard player. It was Bach's intention that the player of these wonderful pieces would not only find them entertaining and joyful to play, but also would gain, from performing them, insight into compositional techniques, especially counterpoint. Many keyboard teachers were still using the WTC a generation after Bach's death, indeed, even Chopin's piano teacher was using this book in the early nineteenth century.

The Well Tempered Clavier of Johann Sebastian Bach is one the most seminal works of music ever produced. Generations of composers learned the art of counterpoint by playing and studying this great collection of preludes and fugues. Most of Bach's music was ignored until the latter half of the nineteenth century when the Bach revival got underway. However certain works of Bach, most notably, The Well Tempered Clavier, were kept alive by a small circle of intellectuals. A man by the name Baron Van Swieten was among these great musical connoisseurs. He hired the twenty-six year-old composer, Wolfgang Mozart to direct his small orchestra during his weekly private concerts which were held on Sunday afternoons. He loaned Mozart a copy of the WTC so that he could study and play it in his leisure time. He paid Mozart to arrange some of the fugues of the WTC for string trio. Mozart was amazed by the genius of this work. It was a profound crisis in Mozart's life to discover such extraordinary contrapuntal music, the likes of which he had never known. Suddenly his counterpoint, which was always very good, became even better. His counterpoint kept getting more and more complex after his encounter with the WTC.

At the age of thirty three Mozart heard one of the Bach motets and was transfixed by its intricate complexity and great beauty. The choirmaster at Leipzig gave Mozart a copy of the score to all six of the Bach motets. He kept these for the rest of his short life, (he had less than three years left to live) treasuring them like the precious jewels they are. They were a profound influence on his late style. In the last two years of his life Mozart's counterpoint became even more exquisite and complex than before.

As for Beethoven,  he was raised on Bach's WTC. He could play through book one in its entirety when he was only eight years old. Despite the fact that Beethoven knew the WTC and most other keyboard music of Bach thoroughly, he was not particularly adept at counterpoint, at least not in his early years. Being interested in the more homophonic style in vogue at the time,  the expressiveness in his music relied more on thematic relationships, harmonic movement, and transformation of motifs. Also I would say that Beethoven relied more on rhythmic iteration and rhythmic transition than any other composer. Nonetheless, his early experience with Bach's keyboard music, especially the WTC, was invaluable for him. In his later years, wanting to compose certain pieces in a more contrapuntal style,  Beethoven worked hard at mastering counterpoint. He returned to the music of  Bach and Handel, and even studied Palestrina. In his late music, he developed a style of counterpoint that is more reminiscent of Handel than Bach. His fugues in his late period are very rhythmic in nature and quite unique in the history of music. He was found of using fugue themes with repeated notes and rather angular outlines. In the last decade of his life Beethoven proved himself to be a capable contrapuntalist, even though it can be said that his counterpoint is sometimes a bit awkward. The ungainliness of his counterpoint actually gives it a certain power, a sense of struggle, unique to his music, and at times even quite charming. It may be hard to assess how much he gained from Bach and how much from Handel. He seems outwardly to have been more influenced by Handel but his knowledge of Bach's keyboard music was certainly invaluable to him. It is hard to say how much of Bach's vocal music Beethoven had seen.  He wrote letters to publishers between 1810 and 1824 requesting them to send him copies of the B-minor Mass but it is not known if he ever received any copy of it. Beethoven had access to the libraries of private collectors such as the Archduke Rudolph, Baron Van Swieten, and others. In these private libraries he could have read many vocal works by Bach, Handel, and other composers.

As mentioned above, Chopin's piano teacher had his students play the WTC. Chopin loved and respected this great tome his entire life. On that famous trip he took with George Sand, to Majorca, it was the only music he took with him. The influence of the WTC on Chopin was profound. Most people don't think of Chopin as a contrapuntist, and it is true that one does not find much in the way of imitative counterpoint in his music. He never composed any fugues, except as an academic exercise when he was still quite young, and there are not many canons by Chopin. However it can, and should, be said that Chopin's counterpoint is exquisite. No other piano music in the entire nineteenth century has such smooth voice-leading. The inner voices in his music are almost as melodically interesting as the bass and treble voices, and the music has a transparency that allows one to hear each separate line clearly. Each voice in his piano music, flows mellifluously and smoothly, with never an awkward measure. The influence of the WTC on Chopin should not be underestimated.

Of course it goes without saying that Brahms was influenced by Bach. More than any other composer, Brahms studied the music of previous composers. He was certainly very fond of Handel but he absolutely loved Bach. Brahms was, perhaps, the greatest contrapuntist of the nineteenth century and to this he owed a certain debt to Bach. Schumann also loved Bach and paid homage to him in his Six pieces in Canonic form, opus 56. Schumann recommended playing one prelude and fugue from the WTC per day. As for Mendelssohn, Bach's influence on Mendelssohn can be most easily seen in his preludes and fugues, which are somewhat reminiscent of some of the preludes and fugues in the WTC.

The music of J.S. Bach was kept alive only by a small circle of intellectuals until the Bach revival that was kicked of by Felix Mendelssohn with his historic performance of The St Mathew Passion in March of 1829.  Bach's vocal and instrumental music was gradually becoming more available in print since the last decade of the eighteenth century but Mendelssohn created a greater awareness of the greatness of his music. Then in 1850,on the hundredth anniversary of Bach's death, the Bach Society was formed in Germany. The Bach Society's raison d'etre was to publish every extant work of J.S. Bach. This huge project was not completed until the very end of the nineteenth century.

Handel's influence on later generations was perhaps more direct. His operas and oratorios are very appealing. He certainly knew how to please a crowd, yet there is so much more than mere pandering to the masses in his music. His juxtapositions of strongly contrasting textures, his carefully times use of dynamics, his beautiful melodies, and his ability to eke out so much expressiveness from one motif, make his music a virtual compendium of compositional technique.

Although Mozart knew only a small fraction of Bach's music, he was thoroughly familiar with the music of Handel. During his childhood trip to England he became well acquainted with Handel's music and he never lost his taste for it. To anyone familiar with Mozart's liturgical music, it is obvious that his knowledge of Handel was deep and thorough. You can hear Handel's influence in some of Mozart's early works, such as The Solemn Vespers, and in later works such as the C minor mass and the Requiem mass. In fact, the opening page of Mozart's Requiem, beautiful as it is, is merely a reworking of the opening choral movement of Handel's funeral music for Queen Caroline. And the glorious double fugue in the Kyrie from the Requiem, uses as one of its two themes, a slightly altered version of the theme that Handel used for "With his Stripes, We are Healed" from his "Messiah."

By far, the major influence of Handel on later generations was through his oratorios, the most famous of which is "Messiah." Baron Von Swieten (mentioned above) commissioned Mozart to re-orchestrate this great work as well as Handel's "Acis and Galatea,"   "Alexander's Feast," and "Ode for St Cecilia's Day." "Messiah" is the most thinly scored of Handel's oratorios, mostly because he was writing it for the city of Dublin, and having never visited that city, did not know what instruments would be available. Messiah is scored for the basic Baroque orchestra, which consists of strings, oboes, and bassoons, with trumpets and kettledrums reserved for the more celebrative numbers. Not only did Mozart add many instruments to the score but he altered many of the arias. Some of them he cut short, or altered certain passages. In some of the arias Mozart changed the harmonic structure. But in the choral movements, he made few changes other than adding instruments to double each voice in the choir. He did the same to "Acis and Galatea." Also, "Acis and Galatea" Mozart added an instrumental countermelody to each aria. These marvelous works would have survived without the Mozart versions, however they became even greater masterpieces when reworked by Mozart. The popularity of Handel's "Messiah" is not to be underestimated. It was immensely popular in his day and has remained so, influencing many composers, especially Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn's two oratorios are obviously influenced greatly by Handel.

As mentioned above there can be found a certain Handelain influence in Beethoven's music. Many of Beethoven's grand themes sound as if they could have been written by Handel. A good example is the main theme to the Consecration of the House overture. More than once in his life Beethoven expressed his opinion that Handel was the greatest composer who ever lived. It should be mentioned, however, that Beethoven knew very little of Bach's music outside of the keyboard works.

In general, the nineteenth century, composers were influenced by the grandeur and power of Handel and the exquisite, complex counterpoint of Bach. The most creative of these composers were able to incorporate into their own unique style what they learned from these masters. Bach and Handel were both incredible in their own right, and they were also seeds that bore great fruit in future generations. The influence of these composers should not be underestimated. Bach's WTC alone was a tremendous influence, as was Handel's Messiah. It seems to me that Handel's influence is more direct and obvious, some examples are Mendelssohn's "Elijah" and much of Mozart's church music.  Unfortunately, many of Bach's great choral masterpieces were not heard or published for over 150 years. What would Mozart have thought of Bach's B minor mass, or St Mathew Passion?  How would the Christmas Oratorio or the Magnificat have influenced Mozart if he had known these wonderful pieces? We will never know.

The influence of Bach is more subtle than the influence of Handel and can be seen mostly in the way other composers learned counterpoint by studying his works. If you want to learn how to create a bass line that goes well with the melody, supports the harmony, yet has beauty, and an independence and logic of its own, there is no better composer to study than Bach. If you want to compose contrapuntal music with complexity, yet with smoothness, clarity, and transparency, then studying the music of Bach and Handel is indispensable.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Delights of BAROQUE MUSIC

Baroque music is instantly recognisable. It is the beautiful expressive music that accompanies many historic films. The uplifting instrumental music that is often used in advertising, and in public campaigns. Why is it so often used? Because it has an unique ability to lift the human spirit, and to set a mood of sublime enjoyment.

Baroque is the style of classical music composed between approximately 1600 - 1750. It is often divided into the Early Baroque, which lasted until the mid 17th century, and saw the initial development of the style. The Middle Baroque, until the late 17th century, and finally the Late Baroque, which ends with the deaths of both J.S.Bach and G.F. Handel in 1759.

J.S. Bach
The name 'baroque', comes from the Portuguese word 'barocco', meaning a strangely shaped pearl. It was a considerable departure from the established music of the time, and must have seemed quite unusual to a contemporary audience.From the outset it was music of the spirit, and of the emotions. Intended to express some of the most profound states of human experience.

Baroque music has a number of particular characteristics which underpin its performance. A strong projection of emotion, and a sense of underlying spirituality. It is a style which makes deliberate use of strong contrast to heighten dramatic effect, for example contrasting different sections of a piece against each other. With slow and fast sections, perhaps.a simple theme set against a complex elaboration and development. All to achieve the maximum dramatic effect. Indeed the whole idea of linking melody and bass dates from this period, with a strong bass part providing a solid foundation and structure on which to build and elaborate the different themes and contrasting elements.

G. F. Handel
For the novice to classical music, there are many notable composers of the Baroque period that are well worth taking the time to listen to. One of the joys of this music lies in personally discovering the many treasures to be experienced, as you explore this music of four hundred years ago.Yet which is still so accessible to us today.

It is generally accepted however, that three composers in particular symbolise the main achievements of the baroque. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frideric Handel (1685- 1759) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). While many others such as Corelli, Purcell and Scarlatti were also important in the development of this new music.

With such a treasure trove of baroque pieces to choose from, it is difficult to know where to begin. But the enthusiastic listener wishing to gain a greater understanding of the style could well consider the following pieces in their initial exploration. From the works of J.S. Bach, a good choice would be the famous Brandenburg Concertos. Bach wrote this set of six concertos in 1721, and dedicated them to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg. They form perhaps the first musical jobapplication,as Bach was hoping for employment with the Margrave. Sadly for Bach, the job offer never materialised, but the Brandenburg Concertos remain an acknowleged masterpiece of the baroque.

A. Vivaldi
A perennial favourite for lovers of this genre, has always been G.F.Handel's Water Music Suite. Composed in 1717 for an elaborate river party on the Thames, attended by King George 1. Some fifty musicians were on board the concert barge, which followed the King's own barge in stately progress down the river.The powerful and beautiful music was so popular with his majesty, that he is said to have requested the musicians to perform it for two further encores. While Handel's oratorio The Messiah, composed in 1741, is perhaps one of the most famous choral pieces of all time.

The Italian influence was strong throughout the baroque period, and in the works of Antonio Vivaldi we have one of its finest exponents. Vivaldi is famous for the sheer number of pieces he produced in his lifetime. Yet an enduring favourite, and one which can be recommended to anyone new to baroque music, is the set of four violin concertos called The Four Seasons. This remarkable piece composed in 1723, is an evocative musical picture of each of the seasons of the year, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.Each section attempts to show the character of the particular season, from the energy of spring, through the mellowness of autumn, to the icy sharpness of winter.

Baroque music was the music of the Enlightenment,of new developments in science, philosophy and literature. Of hope and optimism, a belief in humanity and its great potential for progress. A celebration of profound feeling and inspired vision that still has the power to entrance us in its magic today.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

ORGAN CONCERTO in F major, “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale”

A concerto is different from a concerto grosso in that it is written for one soloist, rather than a group of soloists, and orchestra.

One of Handel’s most popular concertos for organ and orchestra is known as “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale”, because the second movement imitates the sounds of these birds.

This work provides a good example of how Handel used previously composed music in his compositions.  It contains material from his Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No.9, and from his Trio Sonatas N . 5 and 6. Concerto Grosso in B flat major, Op.3, No.2

A concerto grosso is a musical composition written for a group of soloists (concertino) and orchestra (ripieno).  The concertino and the ripieno sometimes play in unison, but more often they play in contrast with each other.

In or about 1720, Handel produced a series of six concertos for string instruments.  One of them was the Concerto Grosso in B flat major,

Op.3, No.2. In this piece, the concertino is made up of two oboes and one bassoon, which introduce the melody or theme.  Throughout the piece, this melody is passed on to other instruments and transformed into different variations.

While Handel did not invent this style of music, he developed it to a new level of sophistication.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

FRIEDRICH HANDELS Oratorio "Israel in Egypt"

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Deutsch: Ge...
Georg Friedrich Händel (1733)
(Photo credit: 
"Israel in Egypt" stands out among the oratorios composed by Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) with its rich use of the choir and an extraordinary scope of tone painting.

Most oratorios by Handel differ from those of his predecessors and contemporaries in the musically and dramatically importance given to the choir, but with "Israel" this has reached an even higher level.

No doubt, this oratorio contains many excellent solo songs, but the overall impression of the composition is determined by the impressive choral scenes.

As these already are examples for the highest artistic creativity, the admiration still increases if you know the original material used by Handel for his composition and note the superior finesse with which he introduced parts that create dramatic tension.

Also the strong, graphic character of Handel's work, his love for nature, the most important source of his inspiration, are nowhere more strongly expressed than in "Israel in Egypt". Using an elated tone painting, in particular the representation of the Egyptian plagues offers an excellent motive for a naturalistic but never trivial representation.

"Israel in Egypt" is close to the very successful "Messiah", with the similar use of the figure of a narrator who links the historical images with short recitals, likewise the fact that the whole text is taken directly from the Bible.

Georg Friedrich Handel started composing "Israel in Egypt" on October 1st, 1738 and completed it on November 1st of the same year.

The first performance on April 4th, 1739, was unkindly received, as the large amount of parts for the choir, which were utilised to express the ideas and actions of the composition, was not understood. Händel, if the reports of different contemporaries can be believed, was deeply struck for the first time in his life and tried to meet the taste of the time by interposing solo songs and organ music in a new version.

Only in the 19-th century, the commitment of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) could lend a certain popularity to Handel's oratorio.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

HANDEL: A Musical Life of Devotion

George Frideric Handel, by Balthasar Denner (d...
George Frideric Handel, by Balthasar Denner
 (Photo credit: 
A great gift to music entered into the world on 23 February 1685 in Halle, Germany. A life of great musical interest; one filled with an unbelievable talent that would become a beacon to many throughout the European continent and span centuries past its lifetime. It is a life that would become centered around a great mystery of how the musical talent would blossom into a recognized and celebrated gift; a life that would alter the musical landscape and the spiritual worship realm in a short 24 days, and a life that would become so influential that it would dictate musical compositions for many years afterwards.

A musical life that in the beginning would find itself struggling to exist; a life that will be forever known in George Frideric Handel. It is through Handel that we credit many great musical accomplishments; accomplishments in the mixture of homophonic and polyphonic textures, through the creation of his own unique works through the process of combining German, Italian, French, and English musical traditions into his highly successful English Oratorios. And most importantly through the lasting effects of Handel's single greatest gift to the world, and the world of music: The Messiah. But how does the work of this single musician leave such a strong impression on the music that we have today? What could possibly make the music of Handel something that would be hailed as electric, memorable, unique, and even cutting edge? And most importantly how could one person alter the musical idiom through a single twenty-four day creation of a setting of Christ's life? Through these questions I will explore Handel's impact on music in a way that shed's light onto the significance of Handel as a musician, a teacher, and inventor and as a religious preserver. It is with Handel that we credit a great deal of musical advancement.

Adversity in Handel's life was something that he encountered early on in life. At an early age Handel found himself faced with a father that did not support a career in music, in fact his father was a person that greatly hated music; noting that it was a pastime that served the sole purpose of casting a light on the weakness of character found within a person. It was his father that wished he would strive to obtain a career as a lawyer, a position that would come with a great deal of security in position and financial stability. This was something that Handel himself would have to come to terms with, because he himself was born with "signs of a fierce ambition, born of an awareness of his superiority as a musician, and with a determination to maintain his independence." This determination to advance his musical skill became a task that took a great deal of hard work and convincing; though it was Handel's mother that provided access to a clavichord hidden in the family's attic. The hours spent hiding from his father in the attic, covering the strings of the clavichord with cloth to dampen the sound, allowed young George the time to practice his musical development and eventually the knowledge of how to play both the clavichord and the organ. This early study is most likely what saved the musical career for Handel, because it was during the time stuck in the attic that a young Duke passing by heard young George playing in the attic and was so moved by what he heard, that he stopped to listen. After hearing young George play the organ, the Duke pleaded with George's father to allow him to travel to Berlin and begin to take music lessons. The young Handel began taking lessons at the age of eight, and was easily able to conquer learning the violin, composition and theory techniques, harpsichord, and reinforce the organ playing skills. By the age of 11, there seemed little that any music teacher could teach George; it was at this point that George's father began angry and again expressed his desire for George to cease playing in the music, and to return home and do as he wished. Handel at the request of his father did in fact return home, only to arrive at his father's deathbed. This was a dark period of struggle for the young Handel, compelled to honor his father's wishes, George decided that it was best to keep to his studies in law; though during this same time he continued to also sharpen the musical skills that he knew he possessed. It was during this time that Handel began to write cantatas for the various churches that he was serving in as an organist. It was the service in music that called out to Handel, and by the time he reached the age of eighteen, Handel had realized that it was in fact his destiny to become a great musician noting that he was destined to improve his musical abilities and his knowledge of music.

Leaving his birth city of Halle lead him on a series of travels that would shape the musical aspect of the outlook that Handel would eventually have on music. The various travels and cities that Handel was to visit would begin to influence every aspect of music that Handel would come to know and appreciate, and it was his first destination in Hamburg that would lead Handel on the path of musical greatness. It was during his time in Hamburg that Handel was really introduced to opera, and it took no time before Handel was given a position in the orchestra on second violin. The time at the Opera house playing violin was a period that would bring the birth of what people would come to see as a man that was described as a "large and very portly man", one that was full of a short temper and one that had a general appearance about him that was "somewhat heavy and sour." The personality of Handel would be something that many really would see as a double edged sword, in one aspect he was a intelligent man that had a good sense of humor, one that show a remarkable sense of integrity, reliability, and absolute honesty in all aspects of his life; but at the same time Handel was a person that possessed a short fuse, and hot temper. He was a man that was short tempered and vocal about is opinions of life in general, and especially music. This personality would be a defining part of Handel's musical career, as it was shortly after he started working in Hamburg at the Opera house, that George was given the opportunity to display his tremendous talent at the harpsichord; though it was also this talent that caused young George (now approximately age 22) to vocally disagree with composer Johann Mattheson on a composition Mattheson had written. It was this short fuse of Handel's that nearly ended his career, and life; though this spunk Handel exhibited also gave him the opportunity to catch the eye of a young prince, Prince Ferdinando de' Medici, which would become impressed with the music Handel was performing. This lead to Handel being asked to leave his home, now Hamburg, and make the journey to Italy where he would again be placed in a situation of being surrounded by new composers and styles of music.

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Deutsch: Ge...
Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel
(Photo credit: 

The move to Italy was an exciting time for Handel, as Handel was at a point of where his primary motivation for traveling to new areas was that of gaining experience, and in the case of the opportunity to visit Italy, the objective was to learn as much as he could from the composers of Italy, and their wonderful operas. It was in Italy that Handel made significant strides in his musical career and overall development. For when Handel made it to Italy he was exposed to the world's greatest forms of music consisting of compositions of the likes of Opera, Cantatas, oratorios, chamber cantatas, concertos, and sonatas. This was a period that Handel began the task of refining his knowledge and really defining the compositional talents he had been using to this point.
Handel was afforded the luxury of being able to set no limit on the boundaries of which his music would take because of the generous gift of being surrounded by people that were able to support Handel and his daily needs. As a member of Prince Francesco Ruspoli court, Handel was given the freedom to explore compositional aspects and dig into the music that so highly intrigued him, though it wasn't until 1710 that Handel's musical world would come to full realization, and would establish Handel as one of the greatest musicians of all times. The year 1710 came with Handel's move back to Germany where he would fall into the role once held by Steffani in Hanover as Kapellmeister to the Elector, George Louis, who eventually become King George I of England. Once in Hanover Handel was quickly convinced to travel to England with Prince George to scout out the music scene in the country as Prince George's mother Sophia was married to the English Elector, meaning that Prince George would eventually assume the throne of England (which happened in 1714). During the early visits to London, the young Handel became highly intrigued in London's newest opera house, the Queen's Theater, and it was here that Handel decided that he would produce an opera that was Italian in nature and composed specifically for London. The opera Rinaldo was thus first produced in 1711, and consisted of slightly over a dozen performances, all of which were considered a huge success; thus paving the way for Handel's move to England, and what was to become the foundation for the overall success of Handel.

The move to England was a positive move for Handel overall, leading to his ultimate desire to become a British citizen. Once he was finally settled into his life in England, Handel was offered and accepted the role of music director for the Royal Academy of Music when it opened in 1720. The academy was the center for operatic studies for many years after opening; credited greatly to the presence of Handel himself and his ability to attract the best singers to perform the works he had written himself. Though as with any worthy project dealing with the biggest and brightest stars, the academy began to see a decline in stature and operation; attributed to the high demands the singers were placing on the academy both performance wise and financially. This was only fueled by the internal conflicts among performers, patrons, and rival composers. This was a time when Handel's short fuse and hot temper did not help, as Handel himself was part of many of the quarrels that took place, though he was clever enough to lighten the situation and make the tensions eventually come to an end through humor and quick wit. This did not help the academy in the long run as it eventually was forced to close its doors, but at the same time it only freed Handel to focus on his career, and eventually give him the time to prepare for the needed shift in musical direction as the opera itself had reached a point to where it was no longer a viable musical performance option in England.
The shift from opera was one that Handel himself was easily able to undertake, for the ambition and determination to succeed in the music realm allowed Handel to develop an internal motivator that he looked to for resolve to win fame and fortune and to "make money; honestly if you can, but-make money." This was something that would serve Handel himself well because it is Handel's personality and desire to serve the music and the people that gave him the title of "musician of the people." This afforded Handel the ability to see a great deal of success with his music and career while in England going through the period of shifting from the Operatic style to that of composing English Oratorios. This also only aided Handel in popularity because may people saw Handel's music as "property of the people, familiar, understood, and loved" and this was related to many English subjects as to the "work of not other great master the wide world over."

The overall history of Handel is able to show that the experience and cultural exposure of his various travels, gave Handel himself a wide range and palette to work from. It is through the exposure to these cultures and musical styles, compositions, composers, patron, and musician employers that Handel was given the tools needed to succeed in the music world, but the experiences themselves did not create a unique character that was what was admired in Handel. It was the personal traits that Handel possessed that afforded him the opportunity to be loved by many and respected by all. The personality of Handel was a unique blend of every imaginable aspect one could possibly think of, he had a drive; a determination to succeed, the ability to make people laugh, a sense of quick wittedness, a familiarity aspect, devotion to religion, honesty, integrity, and an incredible love of music. But most importantly Handel never let anything stand in his way of doing what he loved: serving the people, the music, and his religion. An example comes in the form of the inability of anything to stand in the way of Handel's success. In 1737 Handel suffered a stroke that for the most part threatened to end everything. The stroke had left Handel's right arm paralyzed and thus prevented him from being able to perform and also had an affect on his mind. It was during this time that Handel fought to remain active, and did through the writing of Italian operas though the public no longer favored them. Handel pushed through all obstacles that he encountered including eventual blindness that took a toll on his compositions and eventually left Handel performing his music for organ from memory. It was ironic that Handel had a determination to succeed, because it was this determination that left him a person that was totally withdrawal from life and society, though loved by all. He did spend most of his time and life locked away from society and the daily life in order to focus on his music and thus never married nor had any children. He was a man that truly devoted his life to the people, his music, and changing the world of music.

The Influence Handel had on music was immense, the style and techniques that he was able to incorporate into the daily musical vocabulary was a blending of the major European styles that Handel had experienced in his travels from Halle to Hanover, to Hamburg, Italy and England. Simply put, Handel took the best of all the styles and created one Handelian style that would become a standard for the musical world, allowing him to "mature as a composer in England, the country then most hospitable to foreign composers." Handel had a solid foundation from the early Lutheran church music that he was around growing up, this attention to the harmonic structure and counterpoint of the music he was able to adapt a rich lush style in the compositions that he wrote from the sacred cantatas through the opera, and eventually into the English Oratorios. One defining feature of the style that Handel possessed is that he was ever aware of the changing trends of the time, though his style of writing stayed pretty much the same and didn't need much altering for he has such a gift for writing melodies that one would never realize that many times a harmony was not present under the melodic line. The melodies were bold and self-sustaining and thus needed no support from a harmonic progression to carry it through. A strong feature of Handel's compositional style was the process of "borrowing" materials. It is clear and evident that Handel borrowed musical ideas from others during his life as a way to create a new melting pot of musical ideas. But Handel also employed the technique of borrowing musical material, or re-use of musical material, from his own work; however he did like to use material from other composers better. He did this in a way that varied, one method was simply to take entire pieces, or movements, from one work and reuse them in another, or to borrow material from a composer and then rework it to create an essentially new compositions, as seen in the Choruses from Messiah and Belshazzar's feast; using the Italian duet "for unto us a child is born." The use of the borrowing technique is one that is unique to Handel, because it was in the 1930's that it seems as if the practice ceases, though this could be because Handel found the need to shift composition styles, and thus opened himself to a wide range of materials to now pull from, thus making the reference of music harder to pin point. But the fact remains that the "borrowing does not affect his status as a composer" because Handel himself never based his career on any single piece of work that utilized music that was credited to the creation of another person. Thus it is not known if any single composer influenced Handel himself, however it was obvious that Handel left an obvious influence on composer that appeared during his time and certainly after his death in 1759.

But it was in the 1930's that Handel really would begin to impact and alter the trajectory of music and musical composition through the creation of the new genre of the English Oratorio. The English Oratorio was much like the Italian form of the genre as it set dialogue in lyrical and recitative verses, but then was combined with foreign elements from the French drama, Greek tragedy, German passion, and most importantly the English masque. These characteristics combined together was enough to solidify the fact that Handel was to be the greatest musical figure of all time, and one of the most respected people in all of London and England. One of the most important contributions the Oratorio made was to the vocal setting, and through the addition of the chorus. What made this such a huge success for Handel and for the popularity of his music was the sheer fact that Handel was able to create unique effects with the orchestration of the vocal score to create a simple form that alternated in the written passages of verses from an open fugal style to that of a solid harmonic sound. This added with the orchestra, who normally was scored in a way to support the vocal parts created a work that was not only easy to sing, but also made it accessible to the general public, making it established that "Handel is the musician of the people." This form of music was never meant to be suited for the church, the Oratorios were meant for concert hall performance settings and thus even though the Messiah, one of Handel's most well known piece was written as an Oratorio, it was actually seen more as a "sacred entertainment" piece.

But Handel's contribution did not stop at the creation of the new style of music in the English Oratorio, but he actually found a great deal of success in writing instrumental works. The instrumental aspect of Handel's musical output was one that garnished him with a great deal of extra income and was a major factor in keeping the name of Handel fresh in everyone's mind and in their daily musical dealings. Though true to the nature of Handel, he was dedicated to being as successful as he could in all writing aspects that he undertook. Thus the two of his works in the instrumental category best know were written for the King, and were meant to be for the public pleasure during the various outdoor performances and social gatherings. The first, Water Music was written in 1717 and was comprised of three suites for winds and strings that was meant to be played from a boat on the river Thames for the king's pleasure while he was entertaining socially those that he wished to stay in good graces with. The later of the works written in 1749 is the Music for the Royal Fireworks, a staggering piece written for an enormous wind section with strings later added in, meant to be played in an outdoor London park during a firework celebration. The work was written for many military instruments and was a work that excluded the use of stringed instruments, something that Handel initially had objections with. These two works directly play into the desire of Handel to continue to push the boundaries of what music was, and what it could do for the people, and how it could be enjoyed for all, in all aspects of life.

The most profound work that Handel ever wrote, one that would become the model work in the sacred realm of composition; one that would receive a great deal of homage by composers from all areas of Europe and for many decades, is the now infamous, Messiah. The Messiah is a remarkable piece simply from the process in which Handel took to write it. In a short twenty-four day span the work would come to existence from a mere thought. A large part of the ability for Handel to become so musically genius was the way in which he typically broke, or even stretched out traditional styles of composing music in order to make a dramatic impact on the work he was involved with. He was able to do this through the way in which he personally lived his life and through the enriched skills he had developed throughout his extensive travels. He had acquired the ability to take a raw talent and to polish it up into something of pure beauty and wonder. Since Handel himself typically chose various religious themes for many of his compositions, more and more of the British citizens began to approve using his music as a method of worshiping their god. It was fitting that Handel made his home in England, because it is the English that "have always been a Bible-reading... god-fearing nation, with strong religious instincts and a reverence for sacred things". Messiah is Handel's most well known work, and it is the best example of a work that can be used as a creative worship piece. The work is divided into three segments: The coming of the Messiah, The suffering and death of Christ, and the Resurrection. This work was composed and contained various features that gave way to a wide range of emotions: joy, sadness, fear, excitement, love, compassion, dramatic, and hopefully; but no matter what the need or feeling that way to be expressed Handel found a way to do it, and the Messiah was the catalyst to showcase those talents.

The Messiah composed in 1742 is seem by many as the best-written oratorio that has ever been written. The extensive piece contains some fifty sections of music and performance that takes nearly three hours to fully perform and celebrate. The most impressive aspect of the piece is the fact that it was composed in a mere twenty-four days; accomplished by Handel locking himself in his home refusing to be interrupted by anyone. During this time it was reported that Handel barely ate anything and slept very little. This was yet another nod to the dedication that Handel was known to have, and also played into the aspect that Handel had simply became part of his work, and thus always made sure that his full attention and thought were put into the music as it was composed. It might have been odd for Handel to write such a religiously profound piece considering that he himself was not a very religious person until the later part of his life; though there are accounts that lay claim to a "divine source" as the inspirational and motivational factor for the composition of the work. So profound was the work that Handel himself self stated that "I did see Heaven before me, and the great God himself" when he had finished the widely recognized Hallelujah chorus. The work has had a lasting effect on not only the composer's reputation as one of the greatest advancers of the musical composition spectrum, but also on the works of composers who have been inspired by the works of Handel; Mozart being someone that had become extremely influenced by Handel and in particular the Messiah. But there also have been effects of this wonderful composition on the tradition of the work, and the performance aspect of how it moves people to feel something nearly spiritual every time it is heard. It is reported that during the first performance of this composition in London, that the current King of England, King George II, felt so moved and religiously compelled to stand during the singing of the Hallelujah chorus that others fell in step with the king (as was protocol of subjects to their king) and stood as well. This is a tradition that continues to this very day during the performances of Handel's Messiah.

As you can see Handel had an enduring legacy on music and the compositional aspects of music. The dedication that Handel should to his life of music and the preservation of a lasting legacy has allowed Handel to really never leave us. His effects have been felt to this very day through the standing of the audience during the Messiah, to the compositional nods that composers give to Handel in their works. Handel is someone that proved to many that as long as there exists the desire to achieve, the object of their desire can be reached. Handel's life there seemed to be filled with adversity from the beginning. From his father not wanting Handel to participate in a career filled with music, to his struggles with changing musical styles, the sometimes-awkward positions that Handel found himself in as it relates to arguments; Handel persevered through it all. It was not until the end of his life that Handel showed signs of a frail individual not able to continue on. Blindness was a severe blow to Handel's career being that the production of, and revision of large-scale works was something that could no longer be done. Handel continued to do what he had done all of his life and find new ways to stay relevant and current with the musical needs, and did so through the use of trusted friends that did most of the dictation work for Handel, however eventual total blindness left Handel in such poor health that even that had to come to an end. It was finally on April 14, 1759 that Handel left his body form and thus was not the death of Handel, but was the birth of an enduring legacy of Handel on the musical styling's of what was to come.

Friday, June 17, 2016

MESSIAH of HANDEL - An Example For the Charitable Engagement of an Artist in the 18th Century

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Deutsch: Ge...
Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With his "Messiah" Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) created his most widely acclaimed and most popular composition. No other oratorio has received so much general admiration. One of the reasons is certainly the amazing richness of content, the depth and variety of the musical expression and in the unprecedented grandness of the artistic creation.

Charles Jennens, a well-known art lover, compiled the textual part, which in itself is a masterpiece in form and construction, from quotations of the original, English text of the Bible. To what extent Handel himself was involved in the compilation is not documented but the influence on the lyrics' character is undeniable.

The storyline is developed along a line of images that depict the life, passion and the resurrection of the Saviour, who is announced in the Old Testament.

English: Portrait of Charles Jennens
Portrait of Charles Jennens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Assuming the actual content as known, it uses the names of the solo parts, marked only with the voice they are written in, and thus avoids the introduction of any realistic person that could lessen the sublime effect of the religious text.

According to his own words, Handel composed the music to the "Messiah" in London in only 24 days. He started August 22nd and finished on September 14th 1741. As the oratorio was firstly composed for Dublin, it was adapted to rather modest conditions Handel had to meet there. The choirs were written for just four voices and the orchestra limited to a smaller range of instruments than was common in London.

After Handel's arrival in Dublin on November 18th, he organized twelve concerts within the next 5 months, and let the much-awaited new oratorio be announced in April, to be performed in support of three different charity institutions.

The final rehearsal taking place on April 8th, Handel himself conducted the first performance on April 13th 1742 at the Dublin "New Music Hall". The success of the oratorio turned into a triumph for the composer. The first London performance took place in March 1743 at the Covent Garden theatre, after many changes and additions to the score. Handel organized during the years of 1749 to 1758 annual performances at Easter in support of a London orphanage, these were continued with undiminished success even after his death. The first German performance took place at a private concert in Hamburg in 1772.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

HALLELUJA! The Power of the Word

George Frideric Handel, by Francis Kyte (floru...
George Frideric Handel, by Francis Kyte (floruit 1710-1744)
(Photo credit: 
A minister I knew once questioned the depth or "the soul" of a song I wrote because it was " a song of largely just Hallelujahs". Today I'd like to take a moment on this issue and look at the word "Hallelujah" in some depth.

Its etymology is from the Hebrew and means "Praise Jah" or "Praise God". Interestingly enough, it is a word that circumnavigates the globe and spans most languages. When translated, the word "Hallelujah" (or sometimes "Alleluia") remains the same: In Spanish it's "Aleluya", in Finnish and German it's "Haleluja", in French it's "Alleluia", in Estonian it's "Haleluuja", in Icelandic it's Halleluja, in Slovak it's "Aleluia" and on and on like that. So it's a word whose four syllables mean the same thing to most of mankind. Say the word almost anywhere in Africa and they know how you feel. Very few words translate that way. Consider even the word "God". Even this word changes dramatically in its pronunciation and spelling in translation. "Hallelujah" is truly universal.

I know of no other word in language or song that carries such joy, such celebration, such depth of spirit and soul. With its four open vowels, it is a gorgeous utterance to sing and when sung alone or surrounded by itself and repeated over and over it is the epitome word of celebration in human language. I find that when I'm writing a sacred song and I am most filled with the spirit of God, these are the words that spill out of me over and over as the melodies pour through me from God. Over and over again, "Hallelujah". It happens so often that I have to rewrite the lyrics into other words, otherwise most of my songs would sing nothing but "Hallelujahs".

A man named George Fredric Handel used it to musically summarize his penultimate tribute to the birth of Christ in the finale of his "Messiah". Who has not sat in wonder at the singing of this great gift to mankind as the same word cascaded from the choir?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

In no way comparing myself to Frederic Handel, I too used these words to great effect in a song that opened the performance of The Jenny Burton Experience which ran to sold out audiences for over seven years here in New York City.

Let's start with a Hallelujah
Let's begin with a Hallelujah


There is music in our lives
There is music in the air all around us
There's a spirit in our lives
And the music and the spirit are one


A simple statement, but with the weight and power of this amazing word you can be sure the audiences knew exactly where we were going with the inspirational intention of the performance. It set the spirit of the evening in stone and launched us cleanly and clearly into the realm of spiritual thought.

What is a word but a symbol for an idea. These sounds that come out of our mouths represent concepts large or small. Say the word "streetcar" and we know exactly what you mean. Say the word "God" and you will have as many definitions of that word as you have listeners. But say the word "Hallelujah" and the world is suddenly all on the same page and in some way feeling and knowing the light that you are experiencing. It is a word that bears repetition, no, in fact, clamors for repetition, for to say it once is not enough. It must be repeated and repeated in the wonder of God's grace and power, love, soul, and spirit. It is the penultimate word in the human language in praise of God.

When life is at its best, in the moment when no other words suffice, for most of us here on this planet, out pops the word "Hallelujah". This elegant and universal utterance captures the essence of celebration and is immediately understood deeply in the soul of all.

    By Peter Link
    For more inspiring music you can download and information about Peter Link, please visit
    Peter Link, composer, lyricist, record producer, orchestrator, is also the creative director of Watchfire Music. With a long and successful career in Pop music, the Broadway theater, ballet, television and films behind him, he is now dedicating the great majority of his time and creativity to the development of the inspirational music genre of music production. You can find out more about Peter here at

    Though his career is varied, he considers himself first and foremost a composer/lyricist and says, "I could spend the rest of my life locked in my recording studio and never come out again ... and be happy."

    Article Source: EzineArticles