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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Radio 3: Composers Of The Year 2009 –
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Handel

German born, but hard-wired into Britain's musical culture and a British subject from 1727, Handel gave us Messiah, Zadok The Priest, Water Music, Music For The Royal Fireworks, countless oratorios and more than 40 operas.

It is 250 years since his death, yet no figure looms larger in our national musical history than the ambitious, determined and hard-working musician who came to Britain and carved a living for himself as a freelance composer and impresario.

He was well-known and popular with the public and with royalty, but managed to remain an enigma in his personal life. He enjoyed success in several different countries and his musical style ranged accordingly, from Italian opera to the French suite and the English anthem, from the concerto grosso to the royal birthday ode.

During the 1750s Handel's health and eyesight deteriorated, until he went blind. He died on 14 April 1759 and was buried in Westminster Abbey with full state honours. Beethoven described him as "the greatest composer who ever lived".

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