Georg Frideric Handel was a composer from the Baroque period. Handel wrote primarily music-dramatic works: 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, which comes to a total amount of almost 2000 arias! Furthermore, he composed English, Italian and Latin sacred music, serenades and odes. Among his instrumental music are several organ concertos, concerti grossi, overtures, oboe sonatas and violinsonates, along with many solo works for harpsichord and organ.
Together with Johann Sebastian Bach, who was born in the same year (1685), Handel is viewed as one of the greatest composers of his time. He was extremely prolific and wrote in total more than 610 works, many of which are still performed today.
Compared to his contemporaries Bach, Telemann and Scarlatti, Handel was by far the most cosmopolitan. When Handel was a child, his father, who was a surgeon at the court of Saxe-Weissenfels, imagined a juridical career for him. But his musical talents did not go unnoticed at the court, which forced the father to let him study music. In Hamburg, Handel befriended Mattheson. Together they visited Buxtehude, the greatest organ player of his time, in 1703 (two years before Bach did). At that time, Handel was already an excellent musician, but it wasn't until his stay in Italy - the land of opera - that his talents and skills truly started to flourish. Back in Germany, he received a position at the court of Hannover, where the noblemen had a connection to the British throne. Thanks to these connections, Handel decided to move to London, after which a puzzling history of intrigues and political games started. For example, it is unclear what the exact political message of his famous Water Music is, which was composed for a boat ride on the river Thames by King George. Initially, Handel focused on Italian opera during his stay in London, but from the 1730s onwards he started composing English spoken oratorios, with the celebrated Messiah at its peak.
Westminster Abbey is not just the place where British monarchs were crowned, it's also the place where many English great men were burried. Among those was also Henry Purcell. This final resting place had a double meaning for him: firstly, with his status as a composer he deserved a spot in the abbey, but secondly this was also the location where he worked during the reign of Charles II and William & Mary. Most people will recognise the last aria of Purcell's beloved opera Dido and Aeneas: "Remember me, but ah! forget my fate." More abstract, but less trenchant are his brilliant Fantasias (for viola da gamba) which Purcell composed in the early 1680s. These are small, at times daringly expirimental works, which he carefully dated. Yet, Purcell mostly developed himself as a composer of vocal music, with numerous odes, 'welcome songs', motets (anthems), songs for domestic use (both sacred and secular, both monophonic and polyphonic) and music for theatre.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.