1. The Water Music Suite I Overture
2. The Water Music Suite I Adagio e staccato
The Water Music Suite I Allegro, Andante, Allegro
The Water Music Suite I Allegro
The Water Music Suite I Air
The Water Music Suite I Minuet
The Water Music Suite I Bourree
The Water Music Suite I Hornpipe
The Water Music Suite I Allegro
The Water Music Suite II Allegro
The Water Music Suite II Alla Hornpipe
The Water Music Suite II Minuet
The Water Music Suite II Lentement
14. The Water Music Suite II Bourree
15. The Water Music Suite III Sarabande
Water Music Suite III Rigaudon
The Water Music Suite III Minuet
18. The Water Music Suite III Gigue
19. Handel’s Early Career
Listener’s Guide to The Water Music Suite I Movements
I & II
21. Listener’s Guide to The Water
Music Suite I Movement III
22. Listener’s Guide to The Water Music Suite I Movements IV – VI
Listener’s Guide to The Water Music Suite I Movements
VII – IX
Listener’s Guide to The Water Music Suite II Movements
I – V
25. Listener’s Guide to The Water
Music Suite III Movements I
26. Handel in England
George Frideric Handel was born in 1685, the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach
and Domenico Scarlatti, in the central German city of Halle. His family was not musical, and Handel’s father initially tried to discourage
his son’s musical interests, hoping that he would pursue a more dependable career in law. Handel, however, displayed
not only an exceptional talent but a strong will, developing his skill as a keyboard player despite paternal objections. When
Handel was just 10 years old, during a visit to a relative employed at the court of Johann Adolph, Duke of Weissenfels, his
playing on the organ made such an impression that the Duke financed the boy’s music studies.
Handel seems never to
have considered seriously his father’s wish that he study law. In any event, music soon claimed him. At age 17 he obtained
a position as organist in one of Halle’s principal churches. A year later, in 1803, he departed his native town and for the next three
years worked in Hamburg, the German city most devoted to opera. Like many composers of his day, Handel was eager to make his mark in the
theater, and he was fortunate to obtain employment as a violinist and harpsichordist in the opera orchestra. The harpsichord
was the most important instrument in opera, which attests to Handel’s skill as a player. His experience of many contemporary
operas encouraged him to write several of his own.
Handel’s stay in Hamburg whetted his appetite for opera and he soon realized
that he would do well to seek knowledge of that genre at its source. Accordingly, he set out for Italy in the autumn of 1706. During the next
four years he stayed in Florence, Rome,
other cities, hearing the music of his foremost Italian colleagues an becoming acquainted with many of them in person.
years were vitally important to Handel’s development as a musician. In Italy he learned the art of writing appealing and expressive
melodies, acquired the dramatic sensibility that would serve him so well as a composer of operas and oratorios, and attained
an understanding of orchestral composition. As his biographer Winton Dean put it, Handel “arrive in Italy a gifted but crude composer with an uncertain
command of form, and left it a polished and fully-equipped artist.”
In 1710, at age 25, Handel returned
obtaining a position as court composer to Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover. It seems, however, that the young musician already
had his sights set on London, where Italian opera was enjoying a sudden surge of popularity, and he managed to obtain an immediate leave of
absence in order to visit England. Handle arrived in London in September 1710, and scored a conspicuous success with his opera Rinaldo. Although he could not have know it at the time, this would be merely the first of many triumphs
he would achieve in the English capital.
Handel soon returned to Hanover in 1711, but he had found the cosmopolitan atmosphere and busy music life of London so much to his liking
that he obtained leave from his duties in Hanover to visit England a second time in 1712. Although he agreed to return to Hanover before long, Handel now settled into a comfortable
routine in his new home. By day he composed operas for the London theaters; during the evenings he consorted with the cream of English society,
including the royal family. The country’s ruler, Queen Anne, showed her approval by granting Handel an annual stipend
and commissioning him to compose works for her birthday celebration, the signing of an important peace accord (the Treaty
of Utrecht) and other national occasions.
In August 1714 Queen Anne died leaving no heir and by an ironic twist of
fate the English crown now passed to the House of Hanover. Handel had by this time effectively abandoned his post in Hanover and taken up permanent
residence in England. We do not know whether the truant composer ignored calls to return to Germany, or, indeed, what the state of his relationship
with Georg Ludwig was at this time. If it was strained, he may well have felt some discomfort when, in September, Elector
Georg Ludwig arrived in London to be crowned King George the First. According to a widely circulated but undocumented story, Handel was initially
afraid to appear at court. Eventually, however, he managed to repair his relationship with England’s new king, for he enjoyed royal
favor for many years.
In fact, Handel became for all practical purposes England’s national composer. He composed anthems for
the coronation of King George II, for the wedding of Prince Frederick, and for the funeral of Queen Catherine. His oratorio
Judas Macabeus commemorated the crown’s victory over
the rebellion led by Prince Charles in 1746. When King George ordered a huge pyro-technical display in a London park to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle
in 1749, Handel wrote his Music for the Royal Fireworks. Through these and other efforts, Handel became something of an institution
in his adopted homeland, his music an expression of patriotic pride at the height of the British empire.
Despite these occasional
commissions to write public ceremonial music or works for royal entertainment, the theater remained the center of Handel’s
professional life. Here his natural business sense served him well, for he was as much an entrepreneur as an artist in the
opera house. He assumed responsibility for the production of his works and shared in the box office profits. But by the late
1720s the English started to tire of the contrived plots and outlandish theatricality that characterized opera during the
Baroque era. As attendance at his presentations dwindled, so did Handel’s finances, and in 1737 the company that had
been producing his operas in London collapsed in bankruptcy.
By this time, however, Handel had begun to compose a new type of work, the
oratorio. This choral work was less costly to present than opera yet had the potential to appeal to a broader audience drawn
form the rising English middle class. Handel’s oratorios related classical legends and Biblical stories, the latter
often told through extracts from the scriptures. The most famous of these works is, of course, Messiah, which Handel wrote in 1741.
Although universally revered today, Messiah
initially incurred the wrath of religious conservatives who objected to its portrayal of Christ in the secular setting of
the concert hall. But the composer finally outmaneuvered his zealous critics. Beginning in 1750, he led annual performances
of the oratorio for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital, a respected London charity. This gesture won Handel general admiration
and secured for Messiah the beginning of the great esteem and affection
it enjoys to this day.
Despite his celebrity, Handel was in many ways a very private person, As a result, out knowledge
of his personality and character is somewhat obscure. Certainly he was pragmatic and worldly, as the enterprising nature of
his opera and oratorio presentations attests. But he also reportedly fell into a “divine rapture”, as one of his
contemporaries describe, when composing Messiah. He could
be stubborn and angry when provoked, but he could also be remarkably generous. Acquaintances often remarked on his dry and
rather sharp with, and on his voracious appetite and love of good food and drink. Handel never married, and his relationship
with the fair sex remains a mystery. While in Italy he reportedly fell in love with a certain soprano. An English contemporary observed that “his
Amours were rather of short duration.” Music, it seems, served as his one true companion.
Though with failing eyesight
in his later years, Handel continued to present oratorios to London up until the last year of his life. He died a celebrated figure in 1759. In accordance
with his well, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. Some 3,000 people attended his funeral.
Unlike his great contemporary,
J.S. Bach, Handel’s reputation did not fade after his death but instead grew ever brighter. His oratorios and orchestral
music continued to be performed in England and elsewhere for the remainder of the 18th century. Both Mozart and Beethoven knew Handel’s
works and admired them. During the 19th century, he alone among musicians of his era continued to reach a large
audience. Today Handel’s music is more widely performed than ever, and the composer stands beside Bach as music’s
defining genius during the Baroque era.
The Water Music
the collection of orchestral pieces known as the Water Music for a truly royal entertainment: an excursion on the Thames river hosted by
King George I. Handels earliest biographers proposed that the composer was in disfavor with the monarch until the Water Music
restored him to His Majesty’s graces. This seems at least plausible but unlikely. When he took up permanent residence
in 1712, Handel was still engaged as music director at the court of Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover. He had obtained leave
to visit London
with the understanding that he would return to Hanover within a reasonable time. However, Handel’s rising fortunes in England gave him little
reason to leave, and his stay in London became a matter not of weeks or months but of years. When the English crown passed to the House of
Hanover in 1714, Handel’s nominal employer arrived in London to be crowned King George I.
The story that Handel was subsequently afraid to appear at
court has acquired the force of legend. This story claims that a reconciliation finally occurred due to the King’s delight
with the music Handel produced for a river party in August, 1715. However, there is little evidence to support it. No newspaper
reports or other documentation or royal barge excursion in 1715 now exists. Besides, George I attended performances of Handel’s
works shortly after he arrive in England, and he readily renewed the stipend Queen Anne had granted the composer before he death. Certainly
he had more important concerns than holding a grudge against a mere musician.
It seems more likely, then, that
the Water Music was first heard on the evening of July 17, 1717. On this date the Kind did hose a river trip, and this event has been amply documented.
One report comes from a Prussian diplomat stationed in London, who offered these details:
“About eight in the evening the King repaired to his barge, into which were admitted the Duchess of Bolton, Countess
Godolphin, Madame de Kilmanseck, Mrs. Ware and the Earl of Orkney, [and] the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber in Waiting. Next
to the King’s barge was that of the musicians, about fifty in number, who played on all kinds of instruments, to wit
trumpets, horns, oboes, bassoons, flutes, recorders, violins and basses….The music had been composed specially by the
famous Mr. Handel, a native of Halle and His Majesty’s principal court composer. His Majesty approved of it to be repeated
three times in all, although each performance lasted an hour - namely twice before supper and once after supper. The
[weather in the]evening was all that could be desired for the festivity, the number of barges and above all of boats filled
with people desirous of hearing was beyond counting…….The concert cost Baron Kilmanseck L150 for the musicians
music Handel assembled to serenade the King and his party as they floated on the Thames consisted of a loose selection of overtures, fanfares, dances and instrumental airs. Precisely
how the composer arranged these movements, and in what order, is uncertain, for the Water Music was published in different
short excerpts over the course of the next 50 years. But the music itself – its instrumentation and the keys in which
the various movements appear – suggests a grouping of three suites, and this has become the accepted format for performing
The Water Music opens with a full-blown overture that adheres to Handel’s typical pattern of a
ceremonious introduction in slow tempo leading to a contrapuntal Allegro. There follows a particularly fine example of Handel’s
instrumental aria, its melodic lines and harmonies combining dignity and tenderness in equal measure. The second suite also
begins with a prelude. This movement, however, consists entirely of elaborate fanfares featuring the brass instruments. Nearly
all the other movements are dances. They feature the characteristic rhythms of the minuet, the bourree, the hornpipe and others
well known to the composer’s listeners.
Modern recordings of the Water Music may offer just a limited
selection of movements collected as a single suite; the accompanying recording includes all three suites in full.
The Baroque Era in Music
The period from approximately 1600 to 1750 has become known to historians of music as the Baroque
era. Initially, the term “Baroque” just described a particular style of music, one marked by ornate melodic turns,
brilliant instrumental sound and extravagant displays of virtuosity. While some of these traits do serve to distinguish the
music of this era from the earlier Renaissance and subsequent Classical periods, music from the Baroque era as a whole is
quite varied in character and texture. Much of it presents a beguiling sweetness, with relatively simple textures and song-like
Baroque era saw the rise of several developments that have profoundly shaped the course of Western music over the last three
centuries and more. Perhaps the most conspicuous of these was the development of two important types of composition: opera
and orchestral music.
Opera originated in Italy at the start of the seventeenth century and gradually became a favorite entertainment
in all the major European capitals. Orchestral music developed somewhat later, following the perfection of the violin, viola
and cello by Italian craftsman, and the redesign of the flute, oboe and bassoon in France.
Originally, composers used the orchestra
in connection with opera or ballet, as well as for special church music. But by about 1700 orchestral music had achieved an
independent status, and such music began to be head outside of any theatrical or ecclesiastical context. The first important
forms of orchestral composition were the concerto, developed chiefly in Italy, and the danced suite, which was cultivated especially in France and Germany.
The development of concert
music for orchestra coincided with the culmination of the Baroque era during the first half of the eighteenth century. This
provided a golden age for music, one whose luster was brightened by many fine composers. Among the greatest of them were Vivaldi,
Bach, Scarlatti, Telemann and, by no means least, Handel.
The Missing Details of Baroque Compositions
Baroque composers left out many of the details that composers of later eras routinely
included in their scores. For example, an important feature of Baroque music is the use of embellishment or ornamentation,
but these were rarely written out in the score. Composers during the Baroque era permitted and even expected performers to
add their own impromptu decorative melodic details to a composition. The conventions for doing this were widely known by musicians
in the early eighteenth century and so were not written out by the composer. It was particularly understood that whenever
a musical phrase or passage was repeated, the second statement should be embellished in some fashion.
In a broader
sense, Baroque composers gave only very general directions for performing their music. For example, they would not which instruments
were to play a passage of music, but not necessarily when individual instruments were to be played. They gave only a general
sense of tempo and little about dynamics – that is, where the music was loud or soft, or about basic phrasing –
where the music builds up and fades away. And it was often left to the performers and accepted convention whether a note was
played long or short.
These specific details in modern performances Baroque music are prepared by the conductor, an
editor, or the performer. So two performances of the same piece by a Baroque composer can often be very different. For this
recording, Maestro Schwarz prepared the edition.
Handel’s Orchestra and the Water Music
The orchestra for which Handel wrote the Water Music varied substantially from
the modern symphony orchestra. Instruments we take for granted in the music of Brahms, Tchaikovsky or Ravel – clarinets,
trombones and others – were not yet widely in use in the early 18th century. Handel had essentially three
types of instruments at his disposal: strings; brass (specifically, horns and trumpets); and woodwinds (namely, flutes, oboes
and bassoons). He evidently conceived these instrumental groups as having distinct characters, and he often used them as separate
choirs rather than seeking to blend them.
The string section forms the backbone of Handel’s orchestra –
not surprising, since it was the core ensemble for all orchestras during the Baroque period. In fact, many Baroque orchestras
were only made up of strings. In addition to the familiar violins, violas, cellos and basses, the string section included
harpsichord. That keyboard instrument provided accompaniment to all instrumental music during the Baroque era. So ubiquitous
was its use that composers did not need to specify it; musicians simply understood that it should be included in performance
and often devised parts for it extemporaneously from the orchestral note.
Among the woodwinds, the reed instruments
(oboes and bassoons) also appear in all three suites. Frequently Handel treats these instruments as a choir. In addition,
he occasionally casts a single oboe in a solo role; the second movement of the first suite, for example, presents an aria
for the oboe with discreet accompaniment from the strings.
Apart from the strings and reed instruments, each of the three
Water Music suites features different instrumental colors. The first suite makes conspicuous use of the French horns and is
sometimes called the “horn suite” for its prominent use of that instrument. In fact Handel’s Water Music
was one of the very first compositions to use French horns, and much of their music here recalls their earlier association
with hunting calls. Handel’s second Water Music suite uses trumpets to stirring effect. The third suite abandons the
brass instruments in favor of flutes, whose timbre imparts a sweet and intimate tone to this portion of the work. By treating the several families of instruments as distinct
choirs, Handel was able to produce antiphonal effects – calls and responses between different groups of players. Moreover,
the juxtaposition of contrasting tone colors was ideally suited for outdoor performance. In scoring the Water Music, Handel
perfectly calculated the setting in which it was to be performed, and one delights in imagining how these pieces must have
sounded to their first audience, floating on the Thames on that warm summer evening in 1717.