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An exact contemporary of Bach, George Frideric Handel was one of the most important composers of the Baroque era, carving out a career for himself which was equally as impressive as his fellow countrymans.
Born in Halle, Germany, to parents who were initially opposed to his devotion to music, Handel soon moved from his hometown to the great operatic centre of Hamburg. The opportunity to meet people from around Europe led to a rapid development of his skills, and, influenced by the Italian style that was gathering pace around him, the composer took the opportunity to travel to Italy, staging La Resurrezione in Rome in 1708. Handels reputation soon picked up, and in 1710 he became Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hannover, Prince George, who would soon become King George I of England. The connection with England had been established, and Handel moved there permanently in 1714, helping to found the Royal Academy of Music five years later. When the new Covent Garden Theatre was established in 1736, Handel celebrated the opening night with a performance of Alexanders Feast.
Following his operatic success, the composer turned to oratorios, starting with the biblical Saul and Israel in Egypt, and premiering Messiah in Dublin in 1742. The next year, despite suffering paralysis in his hand, he completed Samson and the Dettingen Te Deum, with Semele appearing in February 1744. Five years later came one of his most popular works, Music for the Royal Fireworks; up to 12,000 people attended the first performance, an indication of just how popular the composer was in his own lifetime. After staging a performance of Messiah to benefit the Foundling Hospital in 1749, Handel was made a governor, beginning a relationship with the institution that would last the rest of his life.