They were repeatedly performed at concerts and festivals during his life and since, and he incorporated substantial parts of them, with little change except to the words, in several oratorios, notably Esther and Deborah. Their success may have contributed to the popular image of Handel as a grandiloquent composer demanding huge forces of voices and instruments - the more the better - the figure stigmatised by Berlioz as a barrel of pork and beer! In fact Handel always matched his music to the occasion and the building for which it was written, and no occasion could be grander than a coronation. His ceremonial style in these anthems differs from his music for theatre in much the same way as the Fireworks Music, designed for performance outdoors, differs from the instrumental concerti. It is wholly extroverted in tone, dealing in masses and broad contrasts rather than delicate colour: he was not going to waste finer points of detail on the reverberant spaces of The Abbey.
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Within the coronation ceremonies Let thy hand be strengthened was played first, then Zadok, then The King shall rejoice, and finally My heart is inditing at the coronation of the Queen. In modern coronations the order is Zadok, Let thy hand be strengthened, The King shall rejoice and My heart is inditing, with the order of Let thy hand be strengthened and The King shall rejoice sometimes reversed.
He re-used substantial extracts from them in many of his oratorios without many changes other than to the text , notably Esther and Deborah. Two of the anthems were played at the inauguration of the Holywell Music Room in Oxford, a hall dedicated to chamber music. Their success perhaps contributed to the popular image of Handel as a composer whose music required a huge number of singers and musicians the more the better —in other words, the character criticised by Berlioz as "a barrel of pork and beer".
In practice, Handel often adapted his music to the occasion and to the skill of those for whom he was writing, and no occasion could be grander than a coronation.
The ceremonial style of the anthems differs from his music for the theatre just as his Music for the Royal Fireworks the latter designed for open-air performance differs from his instrumental concertos.
The anthems show a completely extrovert tone, managing massed forces and important contrasts rather than delicate colours—with the wide spatial reverberation in Westminster Abbey , he did not waste time and effort trying to show small points of detail.
The means he had at his disposal were the most important of the era—the choir of the Chapel Royal was augmented by 47 singers, with an orchestra which reached perhaps people. The chorus was divided into 6 or 7 groups with the tenors kept together and a large string section, made up of three groups of violins rather than the two which were usual.
Its duration is just over five minutes. It is written in D major for: two sopranos , two altos , tenor, two basses , choir, and orchestra two oboes , two bassoons , three trumpets , timpani , strings, and continuo. The music prepares a surprise in its orchestral introduction via the use of static layering of soft string textures, followed by a sudden rousing forte tutti entrance, augmented by three trumpets. The final section "God save the King, The chorus ends with a largo plagal cadence on "Allelujah".
The text of the second hymn is from Psalm 89 verses It is divided into three parts: a cheerful light beginning in G major, a melancholy, slow middle section in E minor and a closing Alleluia part again in G major. Taking a text from Psalm 21 verses 1—3, 5 , Handel splits this work into separate sections. This is full of festive pomp and fanfares, with a long ritornello of the introduction, using the full force of the choir and orchestra.
The second is in A major and gentler, using no trumpets and drums. It is played on a three-time cadence and uses the highest and lowest string sections in a playful conversation, resulting in a triplet. It then enjoys long chains of suspensions on the phrase "thy salvation". This links it directly to the fourth movement, which is again in three-time but this time counterpointed with a fugue. Handel builds the passion by adding instruments one by one—first the strings, then the oboes and finally the trumpets and drums.
This piece sets a text developed by Henry Purcell for the coronation, consisting of a shortened adaptation of verses from Psalm 45 verses 1, 10, 12 and Book of Isaiah chapter 49, verse In , it was sung at the end of the coronation of queen Caroline, with adaptations by Handel to make its words more appropriate for a queen. The music is in four sections and characterised by a more refined and distinguished air than the other anthems. The overture to its first movement is not a flamboyant trumpet fanfare but a three-time andante.
The first section is in D major, begun by the soloists originally 2 singers from each group to balance against the full breadth of the orchestra before alternating between soloists and full choir.
The third movement in E major is yet again an andante, keeping up the graceful and feminine air until the joyous dotted rhythm reappears on the words "and the King shall have pleasure".
Handel then keeps up the allegro until the end and the orchestra begins the final movement in D major after Isa. Handel kept the trumpets back in reserve throughout the piece right until the end, where they add another triumphal dimension to the finale. Coronation anthems by other composers[ edit ] The genre of coronation anthems was not exclusive to Handel. Coronations included up to twelve anthems and used formulaic coronation texts —starting with the anthem for the procession at the beginning of the coronation ceremonies usually "Oh Lord, grant the King a long life".
Other composers to have produced anthems used during the coronation service include: Thomas Tomkins who wrote anthems for the coronation of Charles I , including a setting of Zadok the Priest. Sir Frederick Bridge wrote Kings shall see and arise for the coronation. Healey Willan wrote an anthem O Lord our Governor for the coronation.
Handel: Four Coronation Anthems & Dixit Dominus
Coronation Anthems, HWV 258-261 (Handel, George Frideric)