Music Composers

Georg Friedrich Handel-Part 2

Stolen Practice Hours

Handel was born in Halle on February 23, 1684, to "Doctor" Handel, then 63 years old, barber, surgeon in ordinary and valet-de-chambre to Prince Augustus of Saxony. Georg Friedrich was born a musician and scarcely waited for his emancipation from the nursery to begin the practice of his art. His earliest delight was to play with toy instruments, drums, trumpets, horns and flutes. For a time the old surgeon bore patiently with this childish fancy; but, finding that it was rapidly developing into a passion he grew anxious with regard to its effect upon the future of the young enthusiast whom he had determined to educate for the legal profession. He, therefore, forbade the practice of any kind of music. All musical instruments were put out of reach. He would even avoid all houses in which music was practiced. This was a sore trouble to the child. He was docile and obedient in all matters, but he could not bear the prohibition of his beloved music. As with Bach, the forbidden fruits possessed their irresistible charm for the boy, and he tried to do on the sly what his despotic father had interdicted. By means of some friendly help he managed to obtain possession of a clavichord. He concealed that precious instrument, the precursor of our pianoforte, in a little garret and in stolen hours, while the rest of the household slept, the boy taught himself to play, practicing anything he may have previously heard or inventing little tunes himself.

The keyed instruments of that time were not of the full-toned, sonorous sort with which we are today familiar. The clavichord was a soft-toned instrument, so soft, indeed, that it would be difficult to hear it at any distance. This may account for the boy's not having been interrupted in his solitary studies, and it is certain that he learned to play in a manner that, considering his years and opportunity, was little short of miraculous.

The Etude Magazine June 1920






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