From the archives: Handel conquers London

Richard Wigmore marks the 300th anniversary of Handel's era-defining move to London in 1712

Never short of confidence or savoir faire, the young Handel seems to have set out to become the supreme musical cosmopolitan. After a thorough grounding in the contrapuntal tradition of his native Saxony, he honed his command of form and fluid, long-arched melody during his glittering three-year sojourn in Italy. Such was his international prestige at the age of 25 that in June 1710 he landed the post of Kapellmeister to Georg, Elector of Hanover, on terms so favourable as to stretch credulity: a generous salary, plus ‘leave to be absent for a 12-month or more if he chose it, and to go whithersoever he please’. Four months later, lured by the new-found craze for Italian opera, it pleased him to travel to London, then a seething city of nearly a million inhabitants.

George Frideric Handel (MARKA/Alamy)

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