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3 Curious Facts about George Frideric Handel

He was the German who learned in Italy and became a star in England: George Frideric Handel. Learn three curious facts about the baroque composer here.

1) Handel fought with the rapier

A curious situation arose in Hamburg on December 5, 1704: the just 19-year-old Handel refused to entrust the musical direction of an opera performance to the composer Johann Mattheson, who was four years his senior. It is hard for us today to imagine how this conflict was settled: with a rapier duel.

The duel took place in front of the Hamburg Opera House on Gänsemarkt. According to Mattheson’s account, it went off smoothly because Matthesons blade shattered.

Good that this duel ended like this! Otherwise it would have been a real pity for music, because Handel later became one of the most important composers of his time, Mattheson one of the most important music theorists.

2) Handel and Bach had the same ophthalmologist

In 1751, Handel had to interrupt work on his oratorio Jephta because he had problems with his left eye. These were the first symptoms of blindness, which would intensify in the years to come.

Handel therefore had several operations on his eyes. He had one operation performed by John Taylor, whose medical skills were already controversial at the time. As early as 1750, Taylor had operated on the eyes of Johann Sebastian Bach, who went blind and died shortly afterwards. Four years later, in 1754, Handel was operated on by Taylor. This operation was also unsuccessful; Handel’s health became increasingly worse.

Today there is no doubt that John Taylor was a medical charlatan. It can be assumed that Taylor applied his dubious practices not only to his two most prominent patients, Bach and Handel. In Switzerland, Taylor is said to be responsible for hundreds of cases of blindness.

3) Handel was a millionaire

When Handel died in his London apartment on Holy Saturday in 1759, he left behind a fortune equivalent to several million euros. During the most successful period of his career, Handel had cleverly invested his fortune, for example in government bonds issued by the Bank of England.

Since Handel was such a wealthy and esteemed citizen of London, it is hardly surprising that many people came to his funeral: 3000 mourners are said to have been there. Yet Handel had actually wished for a quiet burial. This wish was not granted. Handel was buried in London’s Westminster Abbey.

By the way: there are also three curious facts about the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Jonathan Stark – Conductor
Jonathan Stark – Conductor

Hello! I'm Jonathan Stark. As a conductor, it is important to me that visits to concerts and operas leave a lasting impression on the audience. Background knowledge helps to achieve this. That's why I blog here about key works of classical music, about composers, about opera and much more that happens in the exciting world of music.

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