Brilliant Stars: Bach vs. Handel

About this essay

“Founding fathers” of the music

Most Baroque or Classical composers are considered the “founding fathers” of the music that we know of today, and we owe it all to their brilliant minds. Meaning, they have shaped the way we look at music and how they have inspired us today. Of those “founding fathers,” George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach are undoubtedly included.

Most likely because they have affected the music world and history itself. Born in the same year both Handel and Bach became worldly known composers during the Baroque Era and even more famous after their death.

They both unquestionably excelled in concertos; however, they do have subtle differences that can help us distinguish these composers.

George Frideric Handel

George Frideric Handel, an astonishing composer during the Baroque Era, was born on February 25, 1685 in Halle, Germany. His family was never considerate of his love for music, and constantly reminded him that he could not follow a musical career. Nevertheless, his mother was encouraging and supported him; therefore, Handel studied music secretly: hence why he was mostly influenced by his mother.

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While living in Germany, Handel attended the University of Halle; however, he later left to pursue music. Eventually, Handel became well known, he was a great composer and businessman who started his own company, New Royal Academy of Music. Handel never married and never conceived any children; however, he was a very charitable man who had many organizations under his name.

Handel was a hardworking man and this took a toll on his health because eventually he was diagnosed with rheumatism, a disease which causes inflammation and pain in the joints.

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His illness got the best of him because it left him paralyzed and in the year 1751 he started to lose his eyesight. This didn’t stop the Baroque composer, for he worked without rest until he passed away by unknown causes in London on April 14, 1759.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach, a breathtaking composer or artist during the Baroque Period, was born on March 31, 1685, in Eisenach, Germany: just a couple of miles away from where Handel was born. Unlike Handel, Bach came from a lineage of musicians; therefore, they were supportive of his musical career. His father, Johann A. Bach, and his eldest brother, Johann C. Bach, are said to be big contributors in Bach’s musical ability.

Bach was different from Handel in the aspect that Bach married, twice, and had had a total of twenty children which, sadly, only ten made it into adulthood. In parallel to Handel’s health, in 1749 Bach suffered from blindness. Both Handel and Bach received surgery from John Taylor, a well-known eye surgeon: both surgeries were unsuccessful. The master of polyphonic form passed away, from a stroke, in Leipzig on July 28, 1750. Just like Handel, Bach will always be considered a historical figure.

Similarities between both compositors

Both composers had many similarities such as becoming blind, being born in the same year, and being great composers during their lifetime. However, they also had many differences such as their love life, their families and the fact that Handel was the outgoing type while Bach preferred to be introverted. Their personal lives aren’t the only thing that can be used to compare or contrast them, because their music is another way to recognize them.

While Handel wrote a great number of oratorios, Bach wrote over four hundred cantatas, but they both wrote keyboard music and orchestral suites. While Handel can express himself through his music with straightforward means, Bach takes the “extensive” route. It’s been stated by the Dorak Website, that Handel’s life consisted of him having a “flow of ideas” while Bach seemed to solely care about the composition of the piece.

They both have intricate ways of thinking which is why their music has survived for over a hundred years. They may have both focused on different genres of music, but their musical genres have crossed paths before.

Cantatas are described as a vocal genre that consists of movements, which include recitatives, arias, and ensemble numbers. Cantatas were a big part of Bach’s musical career: he once wrote over two hundred cantatas in the span of three years (1723-1727). Unlike Bach, Handel focused on oratorios, which are based on religious texts or characters.

One of the famous cantatas Bach composed was, Cantata No. 140 Wachet auf (BWV 140). This cantata is in comparison to Handel’s Israel in Egypt because they both originated or took inspiration from religious texts. While Israel in Egypt was a story of the people, Wachet auf was about ten virgins and the warning of being prepared for the Day of Judgement.

Another of Handel’s famous pieces is Judas Maccabeus which tells the story of the Jews: who stand against the Syrian conquerors. Herz und Tat und Leben (BWV 147) was written for the Marian feast; therefore, it was composed for Mary’s visit which appears in the Gospel of Luke. Mass in B Minor by Bach and The Messiah by Handel, have impacted the world.

Both pieces are worldly known mostly because of their beautiful composition and the auditory satisfaction that they both deliver. Although these works have different tempos and compositions, they have all inspired artists all around the world.

Both Handel and Bach shared the interest in composing orchestral suites which are widely known in the modern day. Some of which include Handel’s, Music for the Royal Fireworks (HWV 351), Water Suite No. 1 and 2 (HWV 348) (HWV 349). Let’s not forget about J.S. Bach because he has also contributed to this fact.

His famous orchestral suites include Orchestra Suite No. 1, 2, and 3 (BWV 1066) (BWV 1067) (BWV 1068). Not only did Bach and Handel share the interest in composing orchestral suites, but they also composed keyboard pieces. For example, some of Bach’s famous pieces include the following: Well-Tempered Clavier (BWV 846-893), The Art of Fugue (BWV 1080), and Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D minor (BWV 1052).

As well as for some of Handel’s famous well-known keyboard pieces which include: Suite in A Major (HWV 426), Suite in F Major (HWV 427), and Suite in D Minor (HWV 428). Of course, the fact that these songs were composed and thought of by different composers means that they have a different type of impact by which can be determined by looking at the history and inspiration the music has served.


Concluding what has been stated above, both composers had a brilliant sense of composing music, which is why they have succeeded in passing down their legacy of music down to future generations. Both Bach and Handel may have uncanny similarities, but at the end of the day they are completely different composers and this is stated mostly because they have different writing styles.

Not to mention the way they expressed themselves through their music is very distinguishable. Being unique is the sole reason why these two composers came to become well-known in the music industry.

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Brilliant Stars: Bach vs. Handel. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Brilliant Stars: Bach vs. Handel
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