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After the triumphant first run of his first London opera Rinaldo, premiered at the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket, in February 1711, Handel departed, reluctantly, for Hanover. But he had already resolved to return to London. The pliant elector gave him permission to make the trip in September 1712 ‘on condition that he engaged to return within a reasonable time’. He never did, though as Georg knew he would succeed the ailing Queen Anne on the British throne (she died in August 1714), his Kapellmeister’s breach of contract was less reprehensible than might first appear. With his access to the most influential circles, Handel may even have been a useful source of information to the future George I.
A contemporary commentator noted: ‘His return to London was hailed by the musical world as a national acquisition, and every measure was adopted to make his abode pleasant and permanent.’ Indeed it was. In the autumn of 1712, the twenty-seven-year-old composer made London his home, staying first at Barn Elms (present-day Barnes), then at Burlington House in Piccadilly, the luxurious mansion of one of his aristocratic patrons, Lord Burlington. He quickly became the de facto resident composer of the Haymarket opera company, and a court ‘insider’. The following year Queen Anne granted him an annual pension of £200, an arrangement continued by George I. Long before he took British citizenship in 1727, Handel was being acclaimed as ‘the Orpheus of our Century’, and Henry Purcell’s undisputed successor as Britain’s national composer.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2014