Handel*s Water Music Suite no. 2 in D major

George Frideric Handel
0 A leading composer of the Baroque period (c. 1600-1750).
0 Born in Germany – early musical experiences at Hamburg Opera House.
Then travelled to Italy in 1706.
In Italy, he mingled with leading Italian composers of the day – Corelli,
Scarlatti. Handel absorbed many of the features of Italian instrumental
and operatic music into his own compositional style.
Returned to Germany in 1710 – role of Kapellmeister in Hanover under
the Elector (ruler) of Hanover – this ruler later became George I of
England (in 1714).
Around 1710 – invited to write an opera for a performance in London
(Rinaldo). This was a big success and he decided to settle in London and
pursue his operatic career.
The decision was made all the more sweeter in 1713, when Queen Anne
gifted him an annual pension of £200. However, this is said that this gift
also brought about his dismissal from his Hanover post in 1713. Was his
relationship a bit too close to Queen Anne?
Further Context
0 Queen Anne died in 1714 and was succeeded by George I – good relations
with Handel were restored.
Handel was asked to write a Te Deum for the King’s coronation. His pension
was increased to £600 per year.
A Te Deum is a hymn of praise.
Handel lived in London for the rest of his life, initially composing mostly
operas in the Italian opera seria (opera on ‘serious’ subjects) such as Julius
Caesar (1724) and Rodelinda (1725).
Operas in this style were declining in popularity from 1730s and Handel
switched over to the composition of dramatic oratorios in English – unstaged
dramas on religious subjects set to music).
His most famous work is an oratorio – Messiah (1742) – and others such as
Samson (1743) and Solomon (1748).
Handel also contributed significantly to other musical genres – orchestral
music (6 organ concertos), chamber music (sets of Trio Sonatas), church
music (1727 coronation anthem for George II, Zadok the Priest), orchestral
music for state occasions (Water Music c. 1717 and Music for the Royal
Fireworks 1740).
Handel was blind for the last seven years of his life but continued composing
until his death in 1759.
Background to the Water
0 King George I and his entourage arranged several royal boat trips
along the River Thames in a bid to make him more visible to the
public and increase his popularity. There was still a CatholicProtestant feud going on.
0 The first of these boat trips probably took place in 1715 but it was
the 1717 trip on the evening of 19th July that is the most fully
documented. It is known that the music of Handel’s three Water
Music suites were performed at this event.
0 The ‘water party’ travelled from Whitehall to Chelsea and back, with
several barges carrying the King, his entourage and other important
people and a separate barge for the musicians.
Quote from The Daily
0 “A City Company’s Barge was
employ’d for the Musick,
wherein were 50 instruments of
all sorts, who play’d all the way
from Lambeth…the finest
Symphonies, compos’d express
for this Occasion, by Mr. Hendel;
which his Majesty liked so well,
that he caus’d it to be plaid over
three times in going and
0 The King disembarked at Chelsea for supper, which was also
accompanied by music, before travelling back to Whitehall,
again with music playing. Another commentator added that the
instruments consisted of trumpets, horns, oboes, bassoons,
flutes, recorders and strings – and that each performance
lasted about an hour, which suggests that music from all three
Water Music suites were performed.
Handel wrote three suites of this type:
Suite no. 1 in F – known as the Horn Suite
Suite no. 2 in D – known as the Trumpet Suite
Suite no. 3 in G – known as the Flute Suite
0 Suites no. 1 & 2 are for louder, ‘outdoor’ instruments such as
horns, oboes and trumpets so would have been easier to hear
on the river.
0 Suite no. 3 is for quieter instruments (strings, harpsichord) and
would have been hard to hear on the Thames – more suitable
for the supper at Chelsea.
0 It is safe to assume that the instrumental parts in Suites nos. 1
and 2 were almost certainly doubled (i.e. 4 oboes, 2 bassoons,
etc.) to make them easier to hear on the river.
Overall Structure
0 Suite no. 2 is in five movements.
0 Movements are as follows: Allegro – Alla Hornpipe –
Menuet – Lentement – Bourree.
0 Each movement is in D major.
0 Each movement uses two oboes, bassoon, two horns,
two trumpets and strings.
0 Three movements are based on popular dances: the
hornpipe, menuet and bourree.
0 With the exception of Lentement, each movement has
a lively tempo.
Baroque Dance Suite
0 The suite is a type of instrumental dance music that emerged
during the Renaissance and was further developed during the
Baroque period.
Consists of several movements or short pieces in the same key
and functions as dance music or dinner music during social
Dance music was very popular during the 16th and 17th century
and composers were often asked to play such pieces during
social functions. Musicians began collecting dance pieces in the
same key – collectively they became known as “suites”.
By the time of JS Bach (1685-1750) and Handel, suites were
composed of four main movements: Allemande, courante,
sarabande and gigue. Optional movements included: air,
bourree, gavotte, minuet, polonaise and prelude.
Each of the four main movements is based on a dance from
another country – so each movement has a very characteristic
sound and varies in time signature and rhythm.
Handel’s Baroque Dance
0 Handel uses the following movements in his D major Water
Music Suite:
Allegro – Alla Hornpipe – Menuet – Lentement – Bourree
Task: Research the five movements and look at their
characteristics to identify what type of dance they are.

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