Johann Sebastian Bach was the most influential composer of the past three centuries. His magical powers in evaluating the mathematics of music, coupled with the towering force of his spirituality created a synthesis which affects our musical thinking to this day.
George Frederick Handel, whose gifts certainly rivaled those of his contemporary Bach, amassed great wealth and held a position of power in London, and was the best known composer of his time.
Johann Sebastian Bach was known chiefly in Germany, wrote enough music for the Lutheran service to compile about five years of music for his church, received meager stipends and was also paid with food, clothing and other basic commodities, and was buried in 1750 in the courtyard of his beloved church.
George Frederick Handel received permission to leave his native Germany for a short visit to London, and never looked back. His oratorios and other works became so popular that his reputation and wealth were unrivaled during his time, and he was buried with pomp and splendor in Westminster Abbey in 1759.
And yet, during our time, and since the composer Mendelssohn put Bach's music on the map in 1829, Bach's name is more familiar to the world, in general, than Handel's. Why?
Perhaps it is due to the uncompromising values Bach placed in his music; namely, to write music for the sake of its existence, and to think not of fame so much as to satisfy the elemental need to synthesize the vocabulary of the diatonic system, which is still an intrinsic sector of our music today.
Handel strove, on the other hand, for recognition and fame, which he obviously achieved. It seems he did this by curtailing his immense creative powers just enough in order to create a popularism in his writing to bring the middle classes into the audiences which before his time were chiefly audiences of royalty and privilege. In a sense, Handel invented the turnstile (metaphorically!) , and the middle class has been involved in concert-going ever since.
Handel's music was and remains revered and popular to this day; however, the core and substance of Bach's immense vocabulary forced his own genius sons, particularly Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and the composers directly thereafter, to turn to a more simplistic form of musical thinking, giving us the Classical Period of Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven.