Five essential works by Handel

We name the best pieces by Handel, the Baroque master of opera and oratorio

Handel best works

Messiah

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Handel wrote his great oratorio Messiah in just two weeks in 1741, setting a libretto by Charles Jennens. Every aria and chorus is memorable including, of course, the famous ‘Hallelujah’ chorus.

Recommended recording:
Susan Hamilton, Nicholas Mulroy, et al, Dunedin Consort/John Butt
Linn CKD285

Water Music

When George I took a boat trip down the Thames in July 1717, complete with entourage, they were also accompanied by 50 musicians on a separate ‘barge’ playing Handel’s stately Water Music.

Recommended recording:
L’Arte dell’Arco/Federico Guglielmo
CPO 7773122

Keyboard suites

Like Bach’s great Partitas, Handel’s Suites incorporate French, Italian and German music. From the most tender opening of Suite No. 2 to its Gigue ending, Handel reveals his mastery of colour and texture.

Recommended recording:
Murray Perahia
Sony SK62785

Giulio Cesare

Giulio Cesare received a welcome boost from a tremendously zesty Glyndebourne production in 2005. Handel‘s opera
boasts magnificently memorable music.

Recommended recording:
Jennifer Larmore, Barbara Schlick, Bernarda Fink, et al, Concerto Köln/René Jacobs
Harmonia Mundi HMC901385/87

Dixit Dominus

Written during his years in Italy, the influence of Vivaldi on this anthem is clear. It’s a virtuosic choral piece with exuberant counterpoint and drive.

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Recommended recording:
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
Coro COR16076