Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Handel's Water Music

Handel & King George on the Thames, by Hamman

I was listening to the radio the other day when the segment airing started talking about "water music".  Turns out it was featuring composer George Frideric Handel.  From the NPR segment notes:
"In 1717, with England's King George suffering somewhat in the polls, his political advisors suggested that he do something big to get the people behind him. So they came up with the idea of a summer boating party on the Thames.

As the king's court composer, [Handel] was commissioned to write music for this spectacle. The king and his favorites listened from the royal barge as an ensemble of 50 musicians played from another, while boats "beyond counting" crowded alongside.

Though the original scores have been lost, it's clear from the instrumentation and keys that Handel composed the Water Music in three suites: a large one in F with 10 movements, featuring two horns; one in D with five movements (among them the celebrated "Alla Hornpipe"); and one in G with seven movements. While the suites in F and D are clearly open-air music, meant to be played on the barge, the G major grouping was intended perhaps to accompany the king's meal down the river at Chelsea."

The three suites are:

Suite in F major

  1. Overture (Largo – Allegro)
  2. Adagio e staccato
  3. Allegro – Andante – Allegro da capo
  4. Minuet
  5. Air
  6. Minuet
  7. Bourrée
  8. Hornpipe
  9. Allegro (no actual tempo marking)
  10. Allegro (variant)
  11. Alla Hornpipe (variant)

Suite in D major

  1. Overture (Allegro)
  2. Alla Hornpipe
  3. Minuet
  4. Lentement
  5. Bourrée

Suite in G major

  1. Allegro
  2. Rigaudon
  3. Allegro
  4. Minuet
  5. Allegro
Somehow I feel if Handel's "Water Music" were about groundwater, it'd be a heavier type of music - perhaps needing Wagner's genius. Of course, had Wagner handled it, it would have taken another 150 years or so to get done.  Come to think of it, that'd just be par for the course, considering the source!

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