Music Composers

Georg Friedrich Handel-Part 3

A visit to the Duke of Sachsen-Weissenfels, undertaken by his father, brought an unexpected turn in the lad's life. The Duke, after listening to the organ playing of little Georg Friedrich, then not yet eight years old, declared to the father that for such a manifestation of genius the boy ought not to be restrained, but rather encouraged and allowed to study music systematically with the view of devoting his life to it. Old Doctor Handel felt that the Duke was too great a person not to have his own way, and so the law scheme was, temporarily at least, abandoned and the tiny player was informed, to his unbounded delight, that no further opposition would be offered to his natural inclination.

Upon his return to Halle the boy was placed under the organist of the cathedral, Zachan, an enthusiastic young musician of more than average talent (some of his Preludes and Fugues are published in the collection of Breitkopf & Hartel) who taught him to play upon the organ, harpsichord, violin, hautboy and almost every other instrument in common use in the orchestras of the period; he also instructed George in counterpoint and fugue. In that time a conscientious teacher was to his pupil more like a father than a mere instructor. It was not the wholesale commercialized teaching as imparted in our conservatories, where the attention of the pedagogue must be divided between half a dozen or more scholars in the short space of an hour. Zachau devoted to his gifted pupil all his knowledge, his interest, his whole soul. Music of all kinds by all the most famous composers then known was analyzed by master and pupil together, the different styles of the different nations being pointed out and the excellencies and defects of the works clearly shown. Zachau had in his library a collection of scores by various masters, and of many of them he caused Handel to make copies for study. The master would not be satisfied with anything less than one original work every week. These were not mere exercises, but formal compositions - generally a cantata or a motet or sometimes a sonata or a variation. I have dwelt purposely a little longer on these details because there is no doubt in my mind that the solid musical foundation laid by Zachau was more than anything else responsible for the wonderful development of his genius.

The oboe was a favorite instrument with Handel, both then and in after life, and forit he wrote a great deal of his early music while under the tutelage of Zachau.

He had not been quite three years under Zachau when that conscientious man confessed that his pupil knew more than his teacher!

The Etude Magazine June 1920






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