Handel's Water Music was composed around 1717 and first performed after George I requested a concert on the River Thames. Take a minute to get the scoop!
The first performance of the Water Music is recorded in The Daily Courant, the first British daily newspaper. At about 8 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 July 1717, King George I and several aristocrats boarded a royal barge at Whitehall Palace, for an excursion up the Thames toward Chelsea. The rising tide propelled the barge upstream without rowing. Another barge, provided by the City of London, transported about 50 musicians who performed Handel's music. Many other Londoners also took to the river to hear the concert.
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Handel's Water Music was composed around 1717 and first performed after George I requested a concert on the River Thames. The king watched gleefully from the royal barge with various dukes and duchesses as the 50 musicians played nearby.
In fact, the king enjoyed the music so much, he asked the musicians to play the suites three times.
The music is jam packed with catchy tunes, each movement based on the style of a dance. There's actually no set order for the suites to be performed, but it's generally agreed the first is in F major, the second is in D, and the third is in G.
It’s Suite No. 1 that is the most popular. In eleven sections, it begins with a beautiful French-style Ouverture, continues through a jaunty 'Bourée', a stately 'Minuet' and ends with the grand 'Alla Hornpipe'.
This music is often paired in performance with Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, written for George II. Handel was adept at writing for the outdoors, being sure to choose instrumentation that would fill the air: using bassoons, horns and trumpets.