GEORG FRIEDRICH HÄNDEL (whose last name was afterwards anglicized to Handel) was born at Halle, in 1685. As this was the year of Bach's birth, these two pioneers have sometimes been called the "Siamese Twins of Music." But the resemblance between them is not close enough to justify the title. Both were composers, and both wrote in a more or less contrapuntal style; but Handel strove for dramatic effect, and emphasized harmony. Where Bach summed up the glories of the past, Handel foreshadowed those of the future.
During childhood, Handel showed an early devotion to music. Finding himself discouraged, he is said to have used a clavichord in the garret of his house, upon which he could practise in secret. When seven years old, he asked to be taken with his father on a visit which the latter was paying to the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. This the father refused altogether. But when the carriage had gone a little way, it was found that the youngster had run after it, and was clinging on behind. His persistence caused him to be taken along, with perhaps decisive results upon his career; for the Duke, on hearing him play, advised his father earnestly to let the boy devote himself to the music that he loved so irresistibly. Handel was therefore put under a good teacher, by name Zachau; and four years later he was taken to Berlin as a prodigy.
After a university course, with organist work, at Halle, Handel entered upon an important phase of his career by becoming a violinist in Keiser's orchestra at the Hamburg Opera-House. Here he became intimate with Mattheson.
The first incident in this friendship was a trip to Lübeek. The pair went thither in search of the post of city organist. The old Buxtehude, who had held the post for many years, was about to retire; but he had made it a condition that his successor should marry his daughter. After looking over the situation (and the lady in the case), the two young aspirants withdrew from the contest.