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Handel, George Frideric (23rd February 1685-14th April 1759)

He was an organist, harpsichordist and Baroque composer born in Halle, Germany. His father was an eminent barber-surgeon who served in the courts of Saxony and Brandenburg.

His musical talent was noticed from a young age and by seven years old he was playing the harpsichord and organ, and the spinet, which had been given to him for his birthday. His first attempts at composition began when he was nine.  In keeping with his father’s wishes he studied law but following his death he left the University to study music and took the post of organist at the Protestant Cathedral. A year later he relocated to Hamburg and became a violinist and harpsichordist at the Opera House and also composed his first two operas, Almira and Nero.

From 1707 to 1709 he studied in Italy and due to the local authorities putting a ban on opera he became a composer of sacred work and music with an operatic style.  In 1710 he returned to Germany and became Kappellmeister to the Elector of Hanover who would soon become George I of Great Britain. He took a trip to London also in 1710 and settled there in 1712 with an annual income from Queen Anne of two hundred pounds.

He became the director of the Royal Academy of Music from 1720 to 1728, a partner at the King’s Theatre from 1729 to 1734 and although he held a long association with the Royal Opera House he gave up management in that side of the business after losing much of his money.

In 1737 he suffered a stroke which left him temporarily paralysed and stopped him performing but he continued to compose and in 1750 he arranged for The Messiah to be performed in aid of the Foundling Hospital of which he was made governer and bequeathed a collection of manuscripts. The same year he was traveling to London from Germany and when his carriage was going through The Netherlands it was involved in an accident and he was seriously injured.

Born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, he composed many works as commissions for Royal events such as Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks and his Zadok the Priest has been performed at every coronation ceremony since. His other compositions include fifty operas, twenty-three oratorios, church music, sixteen organ concerti and his perhaps most famous work, The Messiah.  In 1751 he began to go blind and after completely losing his sight he died eight years later in London in April 1759 when he was 74 years old.

Joy to the World recordings (Isaac Watts/George Frideric Handel/Lowell Mason)

Black Dyke Mills Band
Chandos 4541 (CD: A Christmas Fantasy)

Boston Pops
Philips 416 287 – 2 (CD:  We Wish You a Merry Christmas)
Conductor – John Williams

DG 419 414-2 (CD: White Christmas)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler

RCA 09026-61685-2 (CD: Pops Christmas Party)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler

Sony SK 48232 (CD: Joy to the World)
Conductor – John Williams
Tanglewood Festival Chorus

Chicago Symphony Low Brass Ensemble
VOX 7501 (CD: Christmas with the Symphony Brass of Chicago)
Conductor – Barry Faldner

Placido Domingo
A Medley of Christmas Carols
(Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Good King Wenceslas, O Little town of Bethlehem, The First Noel)
FM 37245 (CD: Christmas with Placido Domingo)
Orchestra – Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Conductor -Lee Holdridge

Deborah Henson-Conant
Golden Cage (CD: The Gift)
Harp– Deborah Henson-Conant

Kiri te Kanawa recordings
TELDEC 99000 (CD: Christmas with Kiri te Kanawa) 
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Choir of Lichfield Cathedral
The Choir of Coventry Cathedral
Conductor – R. Stapleton
Vocals – Kiri te Kanawa

Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Naxos 8.990005 (CD: Joy to the World)
Conductor – Richard Hayman

Rochester Pops Orchestra
Koch CHD 1531 (CD: Joy to the World – Carols for Orchestra and Chorus)

St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra
Sonari records – 7 55724 00272 3 (CD: Christmas with the Philharmonic)
Conductor – Robert Hart Baker

Robert Shaw Chorale 
RCA 6429 – 2 – RG (CD: A Festival of Carols)
(Arrangers – Robert Shaw/Alice Parker)

Song of Jupiter recordings (William Congreve/George Frideric Handel/Leroy Anderson)
Eastman-Rochester Pops Orchestra
Mercury 432 013-2 (CD: The Music of Leroy Anderson)
Conductor – Frederick Fennell