Handel’s Surprise

Suite in Gm (Selections) George F. Handel (1685-1759)

From his very childhood Handel had a strong propensity to music. His father, however, a barber-surgeon, had in mind for his son a more upwardly-mobile career in Law and did all he could to oppose it. Dad forbade any musical instrument in the house, and even forbade Handel from going to any other house where one might be found. Nevertheless, Handel managed to get a little clavichord (a small keyboard instrument that is so quiet only the player can barely hear it) which he secreted in the attic. When the rest of the family was asleep he would sneak to the attic and practice.

When Handel was about 9, he and his father traveled to Weissenfels to visit relatives. On this trip, Handel was lifted onto an organ bench where he surprised everyone with his playing. (I’ll bet it was a surprise!) This performance helped Handel and the duke to convince his father to allow him to take music lessons, which were extensive enough that Handel played for Frederick the Great at age 13.

Nevertheless, Handel tried to follow his father’s wishes, and even though his father had died in 1697 he enrolled in the school of law at the University of Halle in 1702. Handel only lasted a year, however, and dropped out of law school to become a musician.