G. F. Handel, Entrepreneur

Handel’s Messiah is perhaps the best-known piece of Christmas choral music, and one of the great contributions to Western culture. Less is known about Handel’s entrepreneurial endeavors, however. The Acton Institute PowerBlog offers some provocative discussion, including this quote from Handel scholar Tim Slover:

The Royal Family, fellow Germans from the same region of Hanover, were staunch supporters of his work, but this did not translate into financial security for Handel, as the Crown only sporadically underwrote his opera seasons. When weddings or other occasions called for it, the Hanovers commissioned music from him, but this was never enough to live on, and, anyway, Handel was no court composer. By temperament he was an entrepreneur. He spent several months of every year striking business deals with theater owners, auditioning and hiring singers, and rehearsing and performing instrumental music, operas, and oratorios. His fortunes rose or fell with the public’s reception of his music, and there were lean times as well as prosperous ones.

For more on entrepreneurship in the creative arts, see Art Entrepreneurship, edited by Mikael Scherdin and Ivo Zander. I also highly recommend Paul Cantor’s fantastic lecture series on “Commerce and Culture.”


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