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George Frideric Handel was a brilliant all-rounder, who injected more life and energy into his music than any composer before.
Born the same year as two other musical greats – Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti – Handel’s robust personality and generous physique were as renowned as his music. His delight in intrigue and gossip was matched only by his insatiable appetite for food and liquor. Yet, as Sir Thomas Beecham so adroitly put it: “He wrote Italian music better than any Italian, French music better than any Frenchman, English music better than any Englishman, and with the exception of Bach, outrivalled all other Germans.”
In a word, everything. If you need a concerto grosso to set the feet tapping or a suite of music to raise the spirits; or if you prefer the coloratura vocal brilliance of Italian opera, or a rousing chorus to blow the cobwebs away, then Handel’s your man. How did Handel end up working in England? It was in 1710 that Handel scored his first sensational London hit with his opera Rinaldo. Determined to cash in on the tide of his popularity he returned to the English capital the following year and made such an impact that Queen Anne gave him an "allowance for life."
By staying in London Handel left his employer, Georg Ludwig of Hanover, somewhat in the lurch. In 1714 Queen Anne died childless and her successor turned out to be none other than Georg Ludwig – henceforth King George I! Handel was a bit of a bruiser, wasn’t he? Handel revelled in back-room intrigue. He regularly became embroiled in battles with temperamental directors and singers, especially when rival sopranos started mauling each other during a performance.