The Music for the Royal Fireworks (HWV 351) was composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 under contract of George II of Great Britain for the fireworks in London's Green Park on 27 April 1749. It was to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
The performing musicians were in a specially constructed building which had been designed by Servandoni, a theatre designer. The music provided a background for the royal fireworks. However the display was not as successful as the music. The enormous wood building caught fire due to the fall of the bas relief of George II. However, the music had been performed publicly six days earlier, on 21 April 1749 when there was a full rehearsal of the music at Vauxhall Gardens. Over twelve thousand people, each paying 2s 6d, rushed for it, causing a three-hour traffic jam of carriages, after the main route to the area south of the river was closed (after the new London Bridge's central arch collapsed and it had to be closed). The work is in five movements:
1. Overture: Adagio, Allegro, Lentement, Allegro
3. La paix: Largo alla siciliana
4. La réjouissance: Allegro
5. Menuet I/II
When published, Handel wished to present the work as an overture, but royal moves had it given the title Music for the Royal Fireworks as propaganda in favour of an otherwise unpopular Treaty and monarch
It was originally scored for a large ensemble consisting of 24 oboes, 12 bassoons (including contrabassoon), nine trumpets, nine french horns, three pairs of kettledrums, and an unspecified number of side drums. The version most commonly played today was adapted by Handel for the Foundling Hospital, and consists of a more traditional ensemble of strings and winds. Music for the Royal Fireworks, for orchestra, HWV 351.
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often considered as three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered in the summer of 1717 (July 17, 1717) when King George I requested a concert on the River Thames. The concert was performed by 50 musicians that joined King George I on his barge. King George I was said to have loved it so much that he ordered the exhausted musicians to play the suites three times on the trip.
Music and Instrumentation
All the instruments in the Baroque orchestra were brought onto the King's boat, except the harpsichord since it was impossible to bring an instrument of such size onto the barge.
The instruments include: Two horns, two oboes, one bassoon and the strings.
The "Water Music" opens with a French overture and includes minuets, bourrées and hornpipes. It is divided into three suites:
1. Suite in F major, HWV 348
2. Suite in D major, HWV 349
3. Suite in G major, HWV 350
However, there is good evidence for the somewhat different arrangement found in Friedrich Chrysander's edition of Handel's complete works (Georg Friedrich Händels Werke, Vol. 47, published in 1886), where the "suites" in D and G have their movements mingled together. This sequence derives from Samuel Arnold's first edition of the complete score in 1788 and the manuscript copies dating from Handel's lifetime.
The music in each of the suites has no set order today. When the suite was played for the King, slow, often soft music was played when the King's boat and the orchestra's boat were close together, while louder, brisk passages were played when the boats drifted apart.
The "Music for the Royal Fireworks" is often paired with the "Water Music," in part or in whole, on recordings. Together, these works constitute some of Handel's most famous music for what we would now consider the orchestra.