Today is the birthday (1685 O.S.) of George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel born Georg Friedrich Händel, legendary German-British baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel received training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712. He became a naturalized British subject in 1727. He was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition. This post will be almost entirely musical as a tribute.
Within fifteen years, Handel had started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera. Musicologist Winton Dean writes that his operas show that “Handel was not only a great composer; he was a dramatic genius of the first order.” Because Alexander’s Feast (1736) was well received, Handel made a transition to English choral works. After his success with Messiah (1742) he never composed an Italian opera again. Almost blind, and having lived in England for nearly fifty years, he died in 1759, a respected and rich man. His funeral was given full state honors, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.
Handel was born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, and is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with works such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiah remaining steadfastly popular.
One of his four Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest (1727), composed for the coronation of George II, has been performed at every subsequent British coronation, traditionally during the sovereign’s anointing. Another of his English oratorios, Solomon (1748), has also remained popular, with the Sinfonia that opens act 3 (known more commonly as “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”) featuring at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.
Beethoven said of Handel, “Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means.”
Handel very often had stomach ailments and had to watch his diet. Here is an 18th century recipe for herb pudding which you can use as a side dish, especially with poultry. Groats are hulled grains, often oats. You can sometimes get them in health food stores or online. The pudding mix should be tied loosely in muslin and placed in simmering water for at least one hour. The groats will expand in cooking, so check periodically, and loosen the muslin bag if the groats swell too much.
Take a quart of grots, and steep them in warm water half an hour. Take a pound of hog’s lard, and cut it into little bits. Take of spinach, beets, parsley and leeks, a handful of each; three large onions chopped small, and three sage leaves cut fine. Put in a little salt, mix all well together, and tie it close. It will require to be taken up in boiling, to loosen the string a little.