3 December: Handel’s comical hunger

Every day throughout Advent, the season of overindulgence, we’ll be telling a tale of an overindulgent composer


Composer:    George Frideric Handel


How indulgent:  Very indulgent

How: Handel specialist Dr David Hunter believes Handel suffered from a binge-eating disorder. As Hunter notes, ‘Handel became obese…. During his travels in Europe he incurred huge food bills’. Hunter believes the composer’s obesity stemmed from a compulsive disorder.

Did you know:  Handel was caricatured by French painter Joseph Goupy, with the composer’s face distorted with a pig’s snout, sat at the organ on a wine barrel surrounded by further food. Goupy, a previous friend of the composer, had been angered by Handel’s voracious appetite after the musician excused himself from dinner for a length period of time, only to be found indulging himself in the rear room.

Ironically, since lead was used to preserve wine during transportation, Handel’s death displays characteristic signs of lead poisoning. He may have, quite literally, drunk himself to death.

Now indulge yourself with…..  ‘Behold, I tell you a Mystery / The Trumpet Shall Sound’ from the Messiah


This bass aria from Handel’s Messiah provides a suitable fanfare to the beginning of the festive season.