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Handel: Fire (and Some Water)

June 16, 2010

 

Along with Giovanni Gabrieli's Sonata Pian'e Forte, George Frideric Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks is one of the earliest and best pieces for winds. This information on Handel came from today's Composers Datebook:

 

"Handel and the Royals"

 

It was on today's date in 1710 that a German composer by the name of Georg Friedrich Händel was appointed Kapellmeister to Georg Ludwig, the Elector of Hanover. The annual salary was to be 1000 thaler. Herr Händel accepted on the condition that he receive an immediate 12-month leave of absence so that he could travel to London, where he was eager to make a name for himself as an opera composer.

 

And so, early the following year, Händel's opera Rinaldo premiered in London at the Queen's Theater, and was such a hit that Händel asked for, and received, permission to return to London in 1712 -- on condition, said his tolerant German boss, that he return to Hanover "within a reasonable time."

 

Well, Händel never did return, and, not surprisingly, was dismissed from his post. "Why go back to a German Elector," Händel must have thought, "when the British Queen Anne was granting me an annual pension of 200 pounds a year, and London audiences were positively ga-ga about my Italian operas, which were being staged at the Queen’s Theater in the Haymarket?" Herr Händel set to work learning English and changed his name to George Frideric Handel.

 

By a perverse quirk of fate, when Queen Anne died in 1714, her successor turned out to be -- you guessed it -- Georg Ludwig, the Elector of Hanover, who changed his name to King George the First.

 

Not to worry, though: Handel soon made amends with his on-again, off-again former employer, and henceforth Handel's operas were performed in the King's Theater in the Haymarket."

 

For George I, Handel would write "Water Music" and for his son, George II, Handel would compose his six movement "Music for the Royal Fireworks" to commemorate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which ended the War of Austrian Succession. Together, these two pieces make up Handel's most significant "orchestral" output.

 

You can find more detailed information on "Music for the Royal Fireworks" here.

 

George Frideric Handel, Music for the Royal Fireworks

English Chamber Orchestra,  Raymond Leppard, conductor

 

 

George Frideric Handel, Music for the Royal Fireworks

English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

 

 

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