(properly GEORG FRIEDRICH HAENDEL): Musician and composer; b. at Halle, Prussia, Feb. 23, 1685; d. in London Apr. 14, 1759. At the age of seven he was a skilful performer on the piano and organ, and at nine he began to compose music. In 1702, in obedience to his father's wishes, he began the study of law at the University of Halle, but the following year he abandoned law for music and accepted a position as violinist in the orchestra of the opera-house at Hamburg. Here his first two operas, Almira and Nero, were produced early in 1705. Two other early operas, Daphne and Florindo, were produced at Hamburg in 1708. During the years 1707-09 Handel traveled and studied in Italy. His Rodrigo was produced at Florence in 1707, and his Agrippina at Venice in 1708. Two oratorios, La Resurrezione and Il Trionfo del Tempo, were produced at Rome in 1709 and 1710, respectively. In 1710 Handel became Kapellmeister to George, elector of Hanover, afterward George I. of England. He visited London in 1710 and settled there permanently in 1712, receiving a yearly income of £200 from Queen Anne. He was director of the Royal Academy of Music 1720-28, and a partner of J. J. Heidegger in the management of the King's Theatre 1729-34. He gave up operatic management entirely in 1740, after he had lost a fortune in the business. In 1751 he became blind. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Handel's compositions include some fifty operas, twenty-three oratorios, and a large amount of church music, not to speak of his instrumental pieces. Though his operas were superior to those of his contemporaries, they have now been superseded and largely forgotten, with the exception of certain detached arias. It is upon his oratorios that his fame rests. It was his peculiar service to create and perfect the oratorio; and in this field he is still supreme. His best known oratorios are: Esther (1720); Saul (1739); Israel in Egypt (1739); The Messiah (1742); Samson (1743); Judas Maccabaeus (1747); and Jephthah (1752). His works were edited by S. Arnold (40 vols., London, 1786), and more recently by F. Chrysander, for the German Händel-Gesellschaft (100 vols., Leipsic, 1859-94). See MUSIC, SACRED.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The best early biography is by J. Mainwaring, Memoirs of the Life of . . . George Frederick Handel, London, 1760. Consult further: W. S. Rockstro, Life of Handel, ed. G. Grove, London, 1883; E. B. B. Ramsay, Lectures on the Genius of Händel, ib. 1862; F. Crowest, The Great Tone Poets, ib. 1881; A. Reissmann, Georg Friedrich Händel, sein Leben und seine Worke, Berlin, 1882; Mrs. J. Marshall, Händel in Great Musicians Series, London, 1883; C. E. Bourne, The Great Composers, ib. 1888; J. C. Hadden, Handel, ib. 1888; L. Engel, From Handel to Halle, ib. 1890; J. F. Rowbotham, Private Life of the Great Composers, New York, 1893; F. Volbach, Georg Friedrich H¨ndel, Berlin, 1898; C. L. A. Williams, Handel, London, 1901; W. H. Cummings, Handel, ib. 1904; S. Taylor, The Indebtedness of Handel to Works of Other Composers, Cambridge, 1906.