Thursday, 23 February 2017


Portrait of a young Händel
Today's Quote of the Day is brought to us by 18th century Baroque composer George Frederick Handel, who was born at Halle in Germany 332 years ago today:

“Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know not…”

- George Frederick Handel

Enjoy below Handel’s ethereal secular cantata “Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne” (HWV 74), otherwise known as “Eternal Source of Light Divine" as performed by soprano Elin Manahan Thomas:

Did You Know?

Much of the history of Handel’s Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne has been assumed by musicologists by careful study of the movements of not only the composer himself, but also of the House of Stuart and the Hanoverian court: specifically, of Prince George, Elector of Hanover (the future King George I of Great Britain), and Queen Anne, who was presently Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.

German-born Handel, who had aspirations to continue his life’s work in England, would pledge his allegiance to Britain by composing the cantata to celebrate the birth of the English Queen.[1] Whether or not Queen Anne - who was severely ill (her mobility hindered by gout), and, to be frank, was knocking on death’s door (something of which Handel was both well informed and ready to take advantage of) actually heard the work premiere live at London’s St. James Cathedral on occasion of her 48th birthday (February 6th, 1713) is a matter of much debate. In fact, whether the cantata was performed on the occasion of Anne’s birthday at all is a question yet to receive a solid answer. According to legend, the Queen had indeed heard the performance (by all accounts, she was at the very least aware of it’s existence), and was reportedly so bowled over by the honor bestowed upon her by Händel that she granted the composer an annual generous allowance of £200 to be paid until her death.

Of one fact music historians are certain: the Elector of Hanover, long rumored to become successor to Queen Anne (and therefore founder of the Hanoverian court in Great Britain), was well aware of the many talents of Handel (then Georg Friedrich Händel): the wildly successful premieres of Händel’s operas Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor Fido (1713) and Teseo (1713) had placed the composer on the world’s cultural map -  and no doubt into the Electors good graces – so much so that Händel was awarded with an aristocratic post as Kapellmeister to the Prince.

Queen Anne would die of a massive stroke a little over a year after Handel’s Ode had premiered (somewhere – at some previous time) in England; at which point the German Electorate, George of the House of Hanover succeeded the throne of Great Britain. Händel would immediately take a position at court as director of music to James Brydges, 1st duke of Chandos, becoming ‘Composer of Musik for his Majesty’s Chapel Royal’ in 1723.

Georg Friedrich Händel, former citizen of Halle, would become George Frederick Handel, naturalized citizen of Great Britain on the 20th of February in 1727. He would reside at what is now the Handel House Museum - a modest house in Lower Brook Street, London, from the time of his appointment as Composer of Musik for his Majesty’s Chapel Royal until his death in 1759.

[1] The librettist for Handel’s royal cantata, one Ambrose Philips, is also a matter of debate. The attribution to Philips was hastily scrawled in the margins of a biography penned by John Mainwaring (who, as it turns out, was Handel’s first biographer) by the composer’s librettist, Charles Jennens, who asserted that the text was written by “Ambr [ose] Philips.” Jennens’ attribution of Philips to Handel’s work must be digested with a side of caution: according to Mainwaring, the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne held only one performance, and the music was later lost by the composer as he moved into his London lodgings. Jennen, whose attribution to Philips cannot be backed by any other sources, would later claim that the score was not in fact lost, but rather, had been in his sole possession the entire time.

Learn More (external link):

  • " Style and Politics in the Philips-Handel Ode for Queen Anne's Birthday, 1713" (Oxford University Press) at JSTOR* (subscription)

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