When GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL died in England at the age of seventy-four, three thousand mourners gathered at Westminster Abbey to mark his passing. In 1784, a group of Handel's admirers commemorated the centenary of his birth (albeit one year early) with a grand performance of Handel's work at Westminster Abbey, thus beginning a long tradition of yearly gatherings for performances to honor the man who was described by Beethoven as the greatest composer that ever lived.
Handel was born in Germany to a sixty-three year old barber-surgeon and his second wife. From an early age, Handel pursued music despite his father's desire that his son enter into the more practical field of Civil Law. Handel's early love of music is illustrated in stories of Handel sneaking a small clavichord into his attic room to play while his parents slept below, or a young Handel chasing his father's carriage in order to accompany him to Weissenfels where the boy had free access to harpsichords and organs. It was the Duke of Saxe- Weissenfels who, having overheard Handel playing the organ, ultimately succeeded in convincing Handel's father to allow the boy to pursue his musical education.
During the course of his life, Handel traveled widely and was exposed to and instructed in the music of Italy, France, Germany and England. He ultimately settled in England becoming a naturalized English citizen in 1726 and remaining there until his death.
ROBERT GRUCA is a gifted guitarist who performs a wide range of solo, chamber and orchestral music from the classical guitar repertoire. An engaging performer who brings passion and artistry to his performances, Gruca has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra in Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.7 under the direction of Franz Welser-Most, as well as Kurt Weill's Little Threepenny Music, Igor Stravinsky's Le Rossignol under the baton of Pierre Boulez and Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings Symphony with the composer conducting. Known for expressive and nuanced musical interpretations and an extraordinary technical command of the instrument, he has received numerous awards, including first prizes in the Columbus State Guitar Symposium Competition, Appalachian State Guitar Festival Competition and East Carolina University Guitar Festival Competition. Gruca received a Master of Music degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with John Holmquist and Jason Vieaux. He has participated in master classes with numerous prominent guitarists, including David Russell, Sergio and Odair Assad and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. Gruca released a CD in 2006 of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Dusan Bogdanovic, Roloand Dyens, Nakita Koshkins, Joaquin Rodrigo and Franz Schubert.