Although it was built primarily as a venue for university ceremonies, from the first it led a parallel life as a concert hall, and eminent musicians visiting Oxford, such as Joseph Haydn or Jenny Lind, have performed there — as did Handel. This was a grand festival in which benefactors to the university were commemorated, honorary degrees conferred, and grand Latin orations delivered. The Act had been in abeyance for some years, and special efforts were made to ensure that this would be a special occasion: Handel was invited to Oxford by the Vice-Chancellor of the University. Handel offered Oxford a rich bill of fare. There is debate about whether Handel intended to take a Doctorate in Music at Oxford: some sources claimed that he was even an offered an honorary doctorate, which he declined.
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Handel accordingly sneaked off to the attic to practice the clavichord anyway an extremely soft instrument ; somehow the local duke heard the nine-year-old Handel play the organ and convinced his father to support a musical education. Handel then studied organ, harpsichord, and composition with local organist Friedrich Zachow. Some research suggests that the death of a parent at an early age is a powerful stimulant towards success—a kind of silver lining for a terrible loss. By Handel was organist at the local Calvinist church and was briefly enrolled at the University of Halle.
He may have visited Berlin the same year and tasted opera for the first time. And as Halle was not exactly an artistic center, then or now though still worth a visit for the Handel House and Museum , in he left home for the big city—Hamburg. Hamburg was an important opera center in Germany, and the only one not connected with a court. The main opera composer in Hamburg was Reinhard Keiser, who had a significant influence on Handel.
In Hamburg Handel played second violin in the opera orchestra, and later harpsichord; more importantly, he wrote his first two operas: Almira a success and Nero not very successful, and now lost.
He was all of 19 years old. By late Handel had moved on to Italy, where he remained until early , with stays in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. Here he composed more operas and probably returned briefly to Hamburg to direct some of them ; two Italian oratorios; many, many cantatas attractive works that are only now receiving attention; most are secular chamber works for one or two voices ; and three substantial settings of Vespers psalms: Dixit dominus the best known , Laudate pueri, and Nisi dominus.
In Italy Handel met his famous contemporaries Arcangelo Corelli and Domenico Scarlatti, supposedly competing with the latter on harpsichord inconclusive outcome and organ Handel won. He may also have met Alessandro Scarlatti. Handel started a new job in June Kapellmeister for the Elector of Hanover.
The position came with some freedom to travel, and almost immediately Handel was off for a visit to Dusseldorf followed by a trip to London that fall. The latter visit was to produce his opera Rinaldo to a city that was fast becoming enamored of Italian opera. The work was a success, and Handel did not go back to Hanover until the following summer.
Having tasted life in one of the greatest cities of the world, Handel planned to return, and studied English to this end. By late he asked for, and received, a second leave of absence for a London visit, with the stipulation that he return to Hanover after a reasonable time. So Handel left again, but this time for good. London was to be his home for the remainder of his life. In June Handel was fired from his position in Hanover but probably not because he overstayed his leave; more on that below.
In December, however, he was granted a nice annual pension from the Queen. On 1 August Queen Anne died. Hers is one of the sadder stories in the British monarchy. Pregnant 17 times 17! Of her five live births, only a single child lived past the age of two, and that son William died at the age of You will never look at bunnies the same way again. That Anne had been Queen at all was owing to various complicated seventeenth-century monarchical maneuvers to Keep England Protestant.
When she died without an heir, the next in line to the throne or next Protestant was George, overcome by the gorgeousness of the music, asked who the composer was, etc. Alas, as with so many great tales, this one is untrue. But it is nonetheless a nice story. Beginning in Handel enjoyed a brief but productive professional relationship with James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon and then Duke of Chandos.
In Handel was one of the organizers of the Royal Academy of Music, a business venture supported by the wealthy and dedicated to the production of Italian opera. As one might perhaps expect from a theatrical venture, the RAM had its ups and downs, rivalries including an on-stage fight between two leading ladies , and plenty of internal drama. All of these problems meant that the Royal Academy wound up its business in early , though Handel was given permission to continue putting on operas in their venue for the next five years.
Meanwhile England had another change of monarch. George II ascended the throne in June And in he turned down an honorary doctorate from Oxford. Fortunately Handel was able to use the new theater at Covent Garden. All of this stress took its toll, and even though the Opera of the Nobility folded, removing one problem, Handel fell ill in the spring of and went to the continent to recover.
He then returned to composing operas, with his last one appearing in But the two genres differed as well, and not just in their choice of language. Oratorios were not usually staged though exceptions occurred. And a huge difference was the use of chorus.
By contrast, in oratorio the chorus is the star, especially when it represented the Israelites. It was a big success and was the highlight of a seven-month series of Handel concerts in that city. Surprisingly, it was not a success when it was produced in London, and only achieved popularity there as a result of an annual series of charity concerts for the Foundling Hospital that began in It has since more than made up for any kind of slow start, is now performed worldwide, and is surely the most famous choral work in existence.
In Handel lost the sight in one eye, and by he was blind in the other eye as well. He died eight days after one final Messiah performance, and received the honor of burial in Westminster Abbey; supposedly mourners flocked to the funeral.
Three years later a statue of him was erected in the Abbey, twenty-four years after an earlier one was placed in the Vauxhall Gardens—an astonishing tribute to a living composer. A biography of Handel by Mainwaring appeared just a year after his death; it was the first stand-alone biography of a musician.
A second collected edition was started by the English Handel Society in , but it too was left incomplete. An edition complete except for a single volume was issued between and largely the work of Chrysander , and yet one more edition this time a very scholarly critical edition, based in Halle is underway.
His music was highlighted in a series of commemorative celebrations beginning in the 25th anniversary of his death, and erroneously believed to be the centennial of his birth , with the oratorios more than anything else keeping Handel in front of the public. The story behind it connects it to St. Each year I have my students read a famous passage from the latter where he states frankly that sometimes he is so beguiled by the music of a sacred work that it assumes more importance than the words, and he is bothered by that.
That summarizes in a nutshell the issue that has concerned many religions for many centuries: does music art distract from worship or enhance it? Augustine was baptized on 24 April by the Bishop of Milan, who happened to be St. Nice story, probably not true. The Te Deum went on to assume a position in the Divine Office, an important component of medieval religious life. Many men and women in the Middle Ages and at other times as well lived in monastic seclusion, where they participated in two kinds of work during the day: the Opus Mundi work of the world , which included all the tasks we need for living, such as cooking, cleaning, growing crops, sewing, making candles, and so on , and the more important work, the Opus Dei work of God.
In fact, the Opus Dei was so important for some communities that the actual dirty work Opus Mundi was done by lay brothers and sisters, those who lived in the community but had not taken the monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Just so you know, the Divine Office was also sometimes observed in the world outside the monastery.
The Opus Dei, also known as the Divine Office, or the Offices, or the Office Hours, consisted of eight services spread across the day where the brothers or sisters would come together for prayer. They were short because, supposedly, people had to get back to work. The other four hours took longer, since the focus could be on the service. Matins began around 2 or 3 in the morning and could last for two or three hours; it was followed by Lauds about 45 minutes around daybreak.
Vespers also took around 45 minutes, as evening fell, and was followed immediately by the last office of the day, Compline, which lasted about half an hour. Obviously the time of sunset varies, but if it were, say, p. Nonstop singing, adding up to about five or six hours per day actually more, since they would also sing mass every day , which is why plainchant everything was plainchant is pretty easy on the voice: most of it falls in the range of an octave or so, and stepwise motion predominates.
The offices contained many different sorts of pieces: psalms all were chanted over the course of a week , antiphons, hymns, responsories, canticles the Vespers canticle is the Magnificat , and so on. On Sundays and feast days the Te Deum assumed an honored position at the conclusion of Matins, musically the most important of the offices. The text, in translation, became part of some Protestant traditions as well, and it is included in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
Purcell has a notable setting, and it is to Purcell that Handel looked when he began creating his own renditions. The Utrecht Te Deum was thus the first time Handel set the Te Deum text; he was invited to do so for a thanksgiving service to mark the Peace of Utrecht, a treaty that helped conclude the War of the Spanish Succession briefly, the King of Spain had died in without an heir, and France and Austria, each supported by various European powers, squabbled over who should ascend the Spanish throne.
Not everyone in England was happy with the treaty, nor was the Elector of Hanover. Handel completed the work on 14 January borrowing some of his own music from his earlier Dixit Dominus psalm setting ; a public rehearsal took place in March; and the actual celebration itself was on 7 July at St.
It was very well received and was performed regularly on ceremonial occasions until the Dettingham Te Deum replaced it. The Utrecht Te Deum was one of the very first pieces Handel set to English words, but you would not guess this by listening to it or performing it. And musically it foreshadows many future choral works, including Messiah.
It is a terrific work, a joy to sing, and a very impressive accomplishment for someone who wrote it when he was just 27 years old. Works highly selective Handel wrote a zillion pieces or thereabouts in every genre of his time. Many of these compositions were reworked and exist in multiple versions. In addition, Handel frequently shared material from one work to another, so if you know a Handel piece quite well you may find it popping up someplace entirely different e.
He also borrowed a lot of material from other composers, without acknowledgment.
Handel's 'Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate'
It contains eighteen short solos and choruses , mostly of a brilliant, martial character, the solos being divided between the alto , baritone , and bass. After a brief instrumental prelude , the work opens with the triumphant, jubilant chorus with trumpets and drums "We praise Thee, O God" , written for the five parts, the sopranos being divided into first and seconds, containing also a short alto solo leading to a closing fugue. The second number "All the earth doth worship Thee" is also an alto solo with five-part chorus of the same general character. It is followed by a semi-chorus in three parts "To Thee all Angels cry aloud" , plaintive in style, and leading to the full chorus "To Thee, Cherubin and Seraphim" , which is majestic in its movement and rich in harmony. The fifth number is a quartet and chorus "The glorious Company of the Apostles praise Thee" , dominated by the bass, with responses from the other parts, and is followed by a short, full chorus "Thine honourable, true, and only Son". The seventh number is a stirring bass solo with trumpets. A fanfare of trumpets introduces the next four numbers, all choruses.
Utrecht Te Deum (George Frideric Handel)
As in these models, Handel composed a combination of two liturgical texts, the Ambrosian Hymn Te Deum, We praise thee, O God, and a setting of Psalm , O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands, which is a regular canticle of the Anglican Morning Prayer. He followed the version of the Book of Common Prayer. The official premiere took place after the tedious peace negotiations had finished, in a solemn thanksgiving service on 7 July Donald Burrows writes in "Handel and the English Chapel Royal" that "his close association with the Court, reinforced by his musical contribution to events that were personal to the royal family, gave him both the benefits and the disadvantages of identification with the Hanoverian establishment. Friedrich Chrysander edited it as volume 31 of "G. The choir is in five parts SSATB for most of the movements, but occasionally alto and tenor are divided as the soprano; the final doxology begins in eight parts. Almost all movements are set for solo singers and chorus; there are no arias.