Georg Frederich Händel
A "revolutionary" in his day, one might say – in 2009 we will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of his death. Born in Halle an der Saale on 23 February 1685 – died in London on 14 April 1759, buried in Westminster Abbey. In between lay a life full of music.
Barely 20 years old, he actually fought a duel with his friend Johann Mattheson. The reason, however, was not love, as one might imagine, but the question of which of the two was to be allowed into the orchestra pit to conduct and play the harpsichord. This already shows the great significance that music was to have for the rest of his life. His main works include some 40 operas and 25 oratorios, and he left numerous works in all the musical genres of his day. He wrote his St John Passion at the age of only nineteen.
His works of sacred music are crowned by his English psalm compositions with Old Testament texts, known as anthems, which are firmly established in Anglican liturgy. These figurative choral works were originally motet-like but later more similar to the cantata in form. In terms of historical development they can be seen as a preliminary stage to his oratorios. Almost all vocal works have texts both in English and in German.