He was a secret Clavichord player: If it weren’t for Handel playing the clavichord in secret, he probably wouldn’t have become one of the most famous baroque composers today! Handel’s father disapproved of his love for music and didn’t like music being played at home. In fact, his mother sneaked a clavichord into the attic, which he would play in secret when his father was not around. Handel went on to pursue his fathers wish and spent a year studying law at the University of Halle, where he became unhappy and eventually dropped out to become a musician.
Hot-tempered Handel: As well as being extremely talented, Handel was also known to be hot-headed, demanding and very strict. In fact, he reportedly said that more people would pay Scottish Tenor Alexander Gordon jump onto his harpsichord than here him sing. As if that wasn’t enough, there have also been reports of Handel threatening to throw soprano Francesca Cuzzoni out of the window because she refused to sing the aria “Falsa Imagine” from Handel’s Ottone during rehearsal. It’s safe to say that Handel was definitely not a man to be messed with!
Handel’s home, sweet home: After the debut of his opera Rinaldo in 1711, he became very popular in Britain. In 1712, one year later, when he moved into London, Queen Anne gave him a generous salary of £200 and he moved to 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London. Later on, famous guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived two doors away from Handel’s home; at 23 Brook Street and to this day, you can visit both homes in London as museums. Handel’s home was lovingly restored to how he would have kept it when he lived there in the 18th century.
Handel nearly died because of a duel with his best friend: During a performance of Johanne Mattheson’s operas Cleopatra in 1714, the two of them suddenly quarrelled and then duelled. Rather unexpectedly, Handel was saved from his death by a large button on his tunic, which deflected Mattheson’s sword. The two then eventually reconciled and became good friends until Handel died in 1759.
The UEFA Champions League theme tune was adapted from one of Handel’s works: For all you football fans out there, did you know that you’ve been listening to Handel’s music for many years on UEFA Champion League broadcasts? Yes that’s right, the Champions League theme tune was actually adapted from Handel’s ‘Zadok The Priest’ which was written for King George II’s coronation in 1727. Since the first performance of this composition, it has since been performed at every single British coronation. The theme preserves some of the same elements of Handel’s original composition, but this is reshuffled to represent the new context.
Handel worked with some massive divas: As one of the most popular opera composers at the time, Handel had freedom to decide who would be the leading ladies. While this was a perk, it also lead to an argument between two rival soprano singers at the time-Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni on stage during a performance of Bonoccini’s Astianatte. It got so bad they literally had to be dragged off the stage to avoid ripping each others hair out!
Handel became the director of the Royal Academy of Music: Handel was so popular and successful in England that he eventually ended up becoming the director of one of the most prestigious music conservatoires in the UK- the Royal Academy of Music.
Handel suffered from various health issues: At the age of just 37, Handel suffered from a stroke which caused paralysis in his right arm. To speed up his arm recovery, Handel made a trip to a spa in Germany where he took long hot spa baths and ended up playing the organ for an audience when he was there. But that’s not all- later on in his life, Handel suffered from Cataracts which led to him being blind after a failed operation.
Messiah was written in a very short amount of time: In a mere 3 or 4 weeks – yes you read that right, one of Handel’s most famous works was written. He began in August 1741 and was finished in September.
The standing tradition for the Hallelujah chorus in the Messiah may have come from a famous British monarch: As you may know, it is a tradition to stand during the Hallelujah chorus in the Messiah- but did you know where this tradition came from? Well, legend has it that during the London premiere of Handel’s Messiah, King George II was so moved by the Hallelujah chorus that he actually stood up and everyone else also followed suit so as to not be seated in the Kings presence. However experts have denied the truth to this legend as there is no evidence to suggest that he even attended the premiere. We’re all for it and encourage people to stand at our performances for this great moment!