Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, June 1

Handel's Testament

Synopsis

When most people hit 65, they’re anticipating their first social security check, but on today’s date in 1750, when George Frederick Handel turned 65, he was making out his will.

To John Christopher Smith, Handel left, “my large harpsichord, my little house organ, my musick books, and 500 pounds sterling.” John Christopher Smith, born Johann Christoph Schmidt, was an old friend of Handel’s from his university days in Germany. Handel persuaded Herr Schmidt to give up the wool trade and come to England. As MISTER Smith, he established a famous copyists’ shop in London, became Handel’s business partner.

Seven years later, Handel modified his will, leaving his larger theater organ to John Rich, whose Covent Garden Theater had staged Handel’s most recent operas and oratorios. To Charles Jennens, who had arranged the Biblical verses for Handel’s “Messiah,” the composer bequeathed some paintings.

To the Foundling Hospital, a charitable institute that had performed “Messiah” as a successful fundraiser, Handel left “a fair copy of the score and all parts” for that famous oratorio. Shortly before his death, Handel bequeathed 1000 pounds to the Society for the Support of Decayed Musicians, a charity in aid of musicians’ widows and orphans, and directed that 600 pounds be used to erect his own monument in Westminster Abbey.

Music Played in Today's Program

George Frederic Handel (1685 – 1759) Air, from Water Music St. Martin's Academy; Sir Neville Marriner, cond. EMI 66646

Additional Information

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