Who is your favorite composer in the baroque era?

georg Friedrich Handel"Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived"

"Georg Friedrich Handel undertook to proclaim the great, wonderful mystery of religion in tones." (E.T.A. Hofmann)

"For Handel, of course, the religious dimension is most evident in church music, which he has written more or less all his life. He wrote it first for the Lutheran worship in his home country, then during his year an Italy for the Roman and finally English church music for the Anglican rite. "

The conductor Peter Neumann has performed numerous works by the composer with the ensembles Kölner Kammerchor and Collegium Cartesianum and published them on sound carriers - including many oratorios.

Along with Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Händel is one of the most famous composers of the Baroque era. His operas, oratorios, many sacred and other works are still on the repertoire of major concert halls around the world. Joseph Haydn, Christoph Willibald Gluck and Ludwig van Beethoven were among his admirers. The latter wrote: Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived. I would bare my head and kneel at his grave.

Handel, who was born in Halle

Georg Friedrich Handel was born on February 23, 1685 in Halle, on the Saale - in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach. His mother Dorothea is a Lutheran pastor's daughter, his father Georg a wealthy surgeon who is employed as a court surgeon for the Duke of Saxony-Weissenfeld. In contrast to other composers, Handel left hardly any written records. The biographies also contain only vague information about his childhood. Handel is said to have learned to play the clavicord at the age of six.

His musical career begins when Duke Johann Adolf I hears the eight-year-old boy playing the organ in Weißenfels. Against the resistance of the father, who distrusts his son's musical ambitions and hopes for an academic career, the duke realizes the boy's great talent.

Beginning as an organist

He convinces the father to let his son follow the path of the musician. Handel received lessons from the composer Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau, who also influenced Bach. Handel was already a gifted harpsichord and organ player at the age of seventeen and enjoyed a reputation far beyond Halle.

From Halle to the gateway to the world - Hamburg

He takes up a one-year position as organist of the reformed cathedral and palace church in Halle. There he is said to have written a cantata every week, in keeping with the tradition of a Lutheran cantor. The community is founded by Protestant religious refugees from France. So she does not refer to Martin Luther, but to the Geneva reformer Johannes Calvin. In the Church's files it says: The Lutheran subject Handel will now perform this service.

Peter Neumann: "I assume that this already shows his openness to denominations. Handel's mother comes from a Lutheran pastor family. She and her son will have regularly attended church services in their parish church, where he recorded the liturgy and principles of the Lutheran faith . He stuck to this all his life. "

In 1703 Handel left Halle and moved to Hamburg for three years, where the first German opera house had opened a few years earlier. In the orchestra he played the violin and later the harpsichord. There and in all the other stations of his musical wanderings, the experiences of his childhood and youth will have a decisive influence on him, emphasizes the conductor Peter Neumann: "Handel always kept this look into the depths of times, that is, into his childhood, and has retained his musical ones He remembers experiences. He later quoted some of the chorales he had experienced again. "

In January 1705 Handel's first opera Almira was performed with great success in the Hamburg Opera on Gänsemarkt. He made friends with Georg Philipp Telemann, wrote other music-dramatic works - and recognized his limitations. To become a real master, he will go to Italy, the country of origin of opera, for four years.

In the land of opera - Italy

Handel arrives in Rome in the summer of 1706. There Marchese Francesco Maria Ruspoli, one of the richest men in Italy, takes him into his household. In return, Handel undertakes to compose music for the evening parties in the Ruspoli house. In the neighborhood are the villas of the cardinals Pamphili, Colonna and Ottobini, who quickly seek contact with "Sassone", the up-and-coming Saxon.

He remains true to Luther's faith

Soon he was also writing sacred music for the Roman Catholic mass. The cardinals adorn themselves with him and encourage him to the best of their ability. In Rome, too, Handel retained his non-denominational religiosity - without giving up his Lutheran origins. Peter Neumann: "That continued in Rome, where he wrote Catholic church music without batting an eyelid and was then advised to renounce the Lutheran faith. But then he said that he wanted to be a member of the congregation live in the faith in which he grew up. "

The first psalm at the age of 22

In January 1707, Handel gave a much-noticed concert on the largest Roman organ in San Giovanni in Laterano. He has arrived in Rome. Peter Neumann: "In Rome he got to know Roman church music, Scarlatti and Porpera, and then wrote in their style, but different because much more fiery and younger - he is 22 years old - his first psalm, the Dixit Dominus, the 110th. Psalm. This is an absolute masterpiece. I don't know if any other composer has written such an enormous work. Even with Mozart, I have my doubts. That's right in the first movement of stunning fire. "

You have to learn what to learn and then go your own way.

Nickname: il Sassone, the Saxon

During the four years that Handel spent in Italy, he lived in Rome, Naples, Florence and Venice. There, his opera "Agrippina" in 1709 marked the breakthrough to his own style of opera. In Rome he is not allowed to stage operas. A papal ordinance prohibited the performance of operas in Rome after the earthquake of 1702.

Handel established his international fame in Italy with several oratorios, the famous "Dixit Dominus" and several operas. He meets the greats of Italian music of that time. Handel, who is mostly just called "il Sassone, the Saxon", met Arcangelo Corelli and the Scarlatti brothers among others.

Around 1640 Giacomo Carissimi wrote the first important oratorios in Rome. Usually they are stories from the Old Testament in Latin. They are short, mostly 20 to 25-minute works, often with a so-called historicus who tells the story like Bach's Evangelist later - always with impressive choirs. Later the Italian language prevailed.

In Rome Handel got to know this type of oratorio particularly through Alessandro Scarlatti. Later, an oratorio is understood to be an opera-like form of music - with recitatives that tell the story and arias that represent the affects and embody the sensitivities of different people - the whole thing embedded in several acts and always in moving choral movements.

La Resurezziones premiere with 45 musicians

Peter Neumann: "He then wrote his first spiritual, in this case Christian, oratorio" La resurezzione "in Rome in 1708. It is the well-known Easter story from the New Testament, expanded to include extensive dialogues between an angel and Lucifer, both about the body Christian argue. "La Resurrezione" is a great achievement by the 23-year-old Handel and surpasses his Italian role models in all respects. "

La Resurezzione is an elaborate work. At the world premiere in Rome, the orchestra led by Arcangelo Corelli consists of 45 musicians. The best soloists in Rome sing the five solo voices. The game of Maddalena is not - as was common back then - with a castrato - but with a woman, which leads to a scandal. The Pope threatens to cancel the play if the role of Maddalena continues to be occupied by a woman. At that time women were not allowed to perform as singers in churches or on stages.

Handel's apprenticeship and travel years in Italy shaped him cosmopolitan and made his successes known throughout Europe. Soon he will strive for the height of his work in England. But first he went from Italy to Hanover and took over the position of court conductor as the successor to Agostino Steffani. The employer is Georg Ludwig von Hannover. He receives a generous annual salary and, as a bonus, a generous vacation policy. The contract states:

If he so desires, he can travel wherever he wants for twelve months or more.

Italian opera tailored to the British

Which Handel makes ample use of. He is particularly interested in the cultural life of England with the Enlightenment thinkers Isaac Newton and John Locke. Since the early death of Henry Purcell, the form of a national-language English musical genre has stagnated. That will soon change with Handel, who was a great admirer of Purcell. Peter Neumann: "Henry Purcell is perhaps the greatest of the English composers. 30 I think Henry Purcell was very important to Handel as an English composer who set the English language to music, also in relation to church music. Purcell was very, very sensitive and fine "Handel then increased it to a greater extent."

England will be his new home

In order to enforce the popular genre of Italian opera in England, a work is missing that is specially tailored to London. All hopes rest on Handel, who does not disappoint. During his first six-month stay, he wrote the crusader drama "Rinaldo" in 1711, which premiered the day after his 26th birthday at the Haymarket Theater.

"Rinaldo", with Handel's most famous aria, "Lascia ch'io pianga", marks the decisive turning point in his already very successful life. The work is enthusiastically received, played 15 times in the first season alone and repeated several times until 1917.

Before Handel moved to London, he arrived in England. Although he returns to the Hanoverian court in the summer of the following year, the decision to live in England in the future has long been made. In 1712 he settled in London where - apart from various trips - he would spend the rest of his life.

When Queen Anne, who has no heirs, dies in 1714, Handel's Hanoverian employer Georg Ludwig von Hanover becomes George I, King of England. He doubles Handel's income and basks in his fame.

Handel becomes an opera entrepreneur

Peter Neumann: "He was obviously not interested in the dogmatics of the various denominations. In a time in London he regularly attended the Anglican church services in St. George. His English oratorios, however, speak more of a kind of deism, the belief in an almighty God like him was very common in England at the time. "

Handel will continue to write numerous operas in London - including "Giulio Cesare" and "Alcina" as perhaps his best known - and become an opera entrepreneur himself through the establishment of the "Royal Academy of Music". Over the years he has established various opera academies.

Today one can hardly imagine what a heated, passionately pursued and discussed social event the opera in London and in other European cities of the Baroque era was. In an advice to Christoph Willibald Gluck, the great opera composer of the next generation, Handel scoffs at the musical preferences of the London audience:

You have put too much trouble into your opera. Here in England this is a real waste of time. What the English love is something to which they can beat time, something that hits right in the middle of the eardrum.

Handel's last opera, Imeneo and Deidamia, are barely successful. He got into temporary economic difficulties and suffered a collapse in health, probably a stroke with symptoms of paralysis. However, Handel recovered surprisingly quickly and from then on turned to English-language oratorios. He composed the first oratorios "Saul" and "Israel in Egypt" in quick succession. They are performed at the Haymarket Theater in 1739. Peter Neumann considers Saul to be Handel's greatest music-dramatic work

Peter Neumann: "Already the big introduction, a four-movement symphony with a following five-movement vocal part, in which the fight between David and Goliath is described, is quite extraordinary." "Israel in Egypt is a compilation of short passages from the Bible and describes the passage through the Red Sea. Perhaps it has to be said that it is Handel's choral work with the highest choral proportions." The oratorio was not as successful at its first performance as Saul. The high proportion of choirs seemed to irritate the audience, which was used to more solo numbers.

In 1741 he composed "Messiah"

In the thirteen years that followed, Handel wrote one or two new oratorios a year - mostly composed according to the Old Testament. In 1741 he composed his most famous work, the oratorio Messias. The first performance of the composition, which was created in a creative frenzy lasting 23 days, will take place in Dublin for the benefit of prisoners of guilt and hospitals for the poor. As a result, Handel always ensures that the proceeds from all performances of the work benefit poor and needy people.

Stefan Zweig described the creation of the Messiah in one of the stories in the "Great moments of mankind": Finally, after three weeks, the work was finished. Everything was written, designed in melody and upswing, only one word was still missing, the last of the work: "Amen". Handel then took these two short syllables to create a resounding set of steps up to heaven to build. He threw them to one of the voices, in a changing chorus, he stretched them and tore them apart again and again in order to merge them again and again anew and even more glowing. And like breath his fervor drove into this final word of his great prayer that it was wide as the world and full of its abundance.

Peter Neumann: "The Messiah has its unique meaning above all because it is a non-denominational setting of the entire Christian salvation history. The biblical texts are largely taken from the Old Testament and put together in such a way that the promise of the prophets and psalmists is indirect tells the life of Jesus Christ. Luke II is only briefly quoted in the angel's message in the Christmas story. Of course there is wonderful music in the Messiah, but the palm is more appropriate for the great plot oratorios: Saul, Jephta, Theodora, Solomon. "

Solomon opens the series of Handel's last oratorios. The text is based on the Old Testament Book of Kings. At the world premiere in the Convent Garden, the eight soloists will be faced with an eight-part choir. Peter Neumann: The most grandiose piece in Solomon is the choir "Praise the Lord" where Handel once remembers a Luther chorale from Isaiah the Prophet. Then comes a line: "Holy is the God of hosts". And that begins at the height of the already very exciting development. 43 The whole then results in the most extraordinary heavenly jubilation choir, which can only be compared with Bach's Sanctus from the B minor Mass.

In the shadow of Bach

In the course of his life, Georg Friedrich Handel composed more than Bach and Beethoven put together. Peter Neumann: "Handel was really amazingly productive. You wouldn't believe that it took him less than a month to write music lasting more than three hours for an opera or an oratorio. The Messiah even shorter. You can do that if you don't think, just write. It was only something like that with Mozart. "

For a long time the composer was in the shadow of Bach, whose perfection and perfection in composition - from the polyphony to the fugues - Handel never strived for. Bach's fugues had an educational effect up to the academies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Peter Neumann: "Like Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach is an incomprehensible genius in human history. You could say: Nobody has brought spirit and soul into such a perfect musical balance as he did. Handel's genius is of a completely different kind Representation of human soul states: grief, lamentation, joie de vivre. And he brings these to life with his talent for dramatic tension, pathos, grandiosity in a way that his music still reaches us directly today. He then has emotions and states of the soul for some Found musical possibilities that no one else has found. Let's take the lament arias, the lament choirs. "

Peter Neumann: "His operas and oratorios are the most extensive. And yet I think that Handel was definitely a religious person and that this shines through all of his music.You could say that Handel alternates between secular and religious, but I believe that in the secular the transcendent has not ceased to exist and that it sometimes more or less shines through. Certainly an example is the "Ombra mai fu" from Giulio Cesare, where one sings about the shadow of a tree and still has the feeling that there is probably something in Cesar's thoughts that also has a religious content. "

While working on "Jephta", Handel began to go blind in 1751, which, however, did not prevent him from directing the stage versions of his oratorios as organist and conductor. A week before his death he played the organ at a performance of the "Messiah". Georg Friedrich Handel died on Holy Saturday, April 14, 1759 at the age of 74 in his apartment and was buried in Westminster Abbey. In his few remaining notes the sentence can be found:

Let life fade, let death approach. We cannot sink because the helper is God.