HANDEL: Fireworks Music / Water Music

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Gearge Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)

Music for the Royal Fireworks

Water Music

George Frideric Handel was born in Halle in 1685, the son of an elderlyand distinguished barber-surgeon by his second wife, the daughter of a Lutheranpastor. He showed an early interest in music, an activity not altogetherencouraged by his father, whose patron, the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels,intervened in the boy's favour. His father died in 1697 but Handel's generaland musical education continued, allowing him, four years later, to matriculateat the University of Halle, and to accept, a month afterwards, the position oforganist at the Calvinist cathedral. The following year he abandoned hisstudies and his native town in order to embark on a career as a musician.

Handel's first employment was in the city of Hamburg. There he workedat the opera, at first as a rank-and-file second violinist and then asharpsichordist and composer, establishing his first connection with England bygiving private lessons to the son of the English Resident. In Hamburg he wasassociated with Johann Mattheson, a musician his senior by four years, who wasto claim a share in Handel's education as a composer. From Hamburg Handeltravelled in 1706 to Italy, at the invitation of Prince Ferdinando de' Medici,heir to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. He was to remain there until 1710, spendingtime in Florence, in Venice and in Rome, absorbing more fully the Italian stylethat he had already attempted in opera in Hamburg, and impressing audienceswith his ability as an organist and harpsichord-player.

It was through acquaintance with Baron Kielmansegge, Master of Horse tothe Elector of Hanover, whom he met in Venice, and perhaps through an earliermeeting with the Elector's brother, Prince Ernst August, that Handel foundhimself offered the position of Kapellmeister in Hanover, an appointmentfollowed, according to prior agreement, by immediate leave of absence fortwelve months.

In moving north Handel seems to have had London in mind as a possiblyrich field for musical speculation. England was under the rule of Queen Anne,the second of the daughters of the exiled Catholic King James II. The Last ofthe Stuarts was to be succeeded, after her death in 1714, by the elector ofHanover, who ascended the English throne as King George I. On his first visitto London Handel remained for eight months, seeing to the mounting of his newItalian opera Rinaldo, with alibretto based on an outline sketch by Aaron Hili. The following year hereturned to Hanover, but after fifteen months he was back once more in London,with leave from the Elector to stay for a reasonable length of time. Handel wasto settle in England for the rest of his life, whether with or without thetacit approval of his patron is not clear. He was, however, to enjoy royalpartronage after the accession of George I.

In London Handel was concerned to a considerable extent with theItalian opera, a risky venture that was to undergo various changes of fortuneduring the following decades. Later in his career he was to turn to Englishoratorio, a form that, in his hands, had all the musical advantages of Italianopera, without the disadvantage of foreign language, lavish production costs orliability to native criticism on the grounds of improbability orincomprehensibility. Handel wrote music for other occasions, for the church andfor the pleasure gardens, and enjoyed immense popularity and esteem, hispre-eminence serving to eclipse lesser talents. He died in 1759.

The Water Music and the Music for the Royal Fireworks mark twochronological extremes of Handel's career in London. The first was written inhis earlier years in England, presumably by 1717, to entertain a royal partysailing up the Thames, while the second was commissioned to celebrate the Peaceof Aix-la-Chapelle in 1749. Both occasions called for outdoor music, a form inwhich Handel was to demonstrate a particular skill during the years that heprovided music for the gardens at Vauxhall. Popular legend has it that Handelhad offended the Elector of Hanover by his prolonged absence without leave inLondon and that a reconciliation was brought about through the Water Music,composed to accompany the new King's journey by barge from Whitehall toChelsea, to entertain the court during supper and to escort the royal partyback again down the Thames. The story, given early currency, is now generallydiscounted, since no overt reconciliation with King George seems to have beennecessary. It is clear, however, from a number of contemporary accounts, thatBaron Kielmansegge, whose wife was reputedly the King's mistress, paid for aband of 50 musicians to play music newly commissioned from Handel to entertainthe King during an evening party on the Thames on 17th July, 1717.

Precisely how much of the music performed was by Handel and how much of it nowpreserved in the three suites known as the WaterMusic is not clear. It is reasonable to suppose that the collectionrepresents much of the music played in 1717, although the order of itsperformance is unknown. The present recording does not divide the Water Musicinto the three suites that tater editors have arranged largely from a study ofthe principal sources and from the instruments apparently involved. The firsteleven numbers, however, correspond with what has been described as a HornSuite, because of its particular use of French horns, played by musicians fromBohemia, where horn technique far surpassed anything then known in England. Themovements that correspond with the second and third suites, the formerdistinguished by its use of trumpets and the latter by its suggestion of indoormusic for the music for the Chelsea supper with the gentler sound of recorders,are not separated, so that the complete work ends with a trumpet minuet, afterthe pair of country dances with recorders that here immediately precede it.

The Thames water-party of 1717 was successful enough. The Royal Fireworks of 1749, however, may haveachieved musical distinction but were a pyrotechnic disaster. The fireworksdisplay was planned for an April evening in 1749, in Hyde Park, to celebratethe Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle that had ended the War of the Austrian Successionin the previous year, confirming the Empress Maria Theresia on the throne ofAustria. Handel was able to offer a public rehearsal of his Royal Fireworks music at Vauxhall Gardens,a commercial venture in which he had been involved since 1732. A hundredmusicians were involved, playing to an audience of more that 12,000. A weeklater the music was performed in Hyde Park, a prelude to the event and apossible accompaniment to the King's prior inspection of the elaborate"machine" that was the centre-piece of the display. The fireworksthemselves were disappointing and during the evening the pavilion to the rightof the main structure caught fire.

The Royal Fireworks Music

had already succeeded admirably at Vauxhall. Handel was to add string parts tothe original score, that had, by royal command, been limited to a massive bandof wind instruments, and to present the work as part of a charity programmegiven towards the end of May in aid of Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital, whichwas to benefit even more considerably from the oratoric Messiah.

The five sections of the RoyalFireworks Music open with an Overture in the usual French style,followed by a Bourree and two pieces suggesting Peace and Rejoicingrespectively. The work ends with a pair of minuets.

Capella Istropolitana

(Slovak Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra)

Item number 8550109
Barcode 4891030501096
Release date 12/01/2000
Category Baroque
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Handel, George Frideric
Handel, George Frideric
Conductors Warchal, Bohdan
Warchal, Bohdan
Orchestras Istropolitana, Capella
Istropolitana, Capella
Producers Sauer, Martin
Sauer, Martin
Disc: 1
Water Music: Suites Nos. 2 and 3, HWV 349-350
1 I. Overture
2 Bourree
3 La paix
4 La rejouissance
5 Menuet I
6 Menuet II
7 I. Overture
8 II. Adagio e staccato
9 III. Allegro. IV. Andante
10 V. Allegro
11 VI. Air
12 VII. Menuet
13 VIII. Bourree
14 IX. Hornpipe
15 X. Allegro
16 Suite No. 2 in D major: I. Allegro
17 Suite No. 2 in D major: II. Alla Hornpipe
18 Suite No. 3 in G major: I. Sarabande
19 Suite No. 3 in G major: II. Rigaudon I and II
20 Suite No. 2 in D major: IV. Lentement
21 Suite No. 2 in D major: V. Bourree
22 Suite No. 3 in G major: III. Menuet I
23 Suite No. 3 in G major: III. Menuet II
24 Suite No. 3 in G major: IV. Bourree I
25 Suite No. 3 in G major: IV. Bourree II
26 Suite No. 2 in D major: III. Menuet
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