BMC 44

George Frideric Handel:
Three Coronation Anthems
Concerti a Due Cori

The Ambrosian Singers
The London Baroque Orchestra
Conductor Yehudi Menuhin

1: ANTHEM: "Let thy hand be strengthened" - HWV 259
Allegro Moderato: Let thy hand be strengthened, and thy right hand be exalted
Larghetto: Let justice and judgment be the preparation of thy seat; let mercy and truth go before thy face. Alleluia

2: CONCERTO a due cori No. 1 in B-flat Major - HWV 332
Overture / Allegro ma non troppo / Allegro / Lento / A tempo ordinario / Alla breve - Moderato / Menuet (Allegro)

3: ANTHEM: "My heart is inditing" - HWV 261
Andante: My heart is inditing / King's daughters were among thy honourable women / Upon thy right hand did stand the Queen
Allegro e staccato: Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and Queens thy nursing mothers

4: CONCERTO a due cori No. 2 in F Major - HWV 333
Pomposo / Allegro / A tempo giusto / Largo / Allegro ma non troppo / A tempo ordinario

5: ANTHEM: "The King shall rejoice" - HWV 260
Allegro: The King shall rejoice
Allegro: Exceeding glad shall he be of thy salvation
Non tanto allegro: Glory and great worship hast thou laid upon him
Allegro non presto: Thou has prevented him / Alleluia

6: CONCERTO a due cori No. 3 in F Major - HWV 334
Ouverture / Allegro / Allegro ma non troppo / Adagio / Andante larghetto / Allegro

Total Time 79:37

In 1727, shortly before the death of George I, Handel became a British subject, adopting his "new" names of George Frideric.

Retaining his position as composer to the Chapel Royal (a post he had held since 1723), Handel was commissioned to compose the anthems for the coronation of George II and his consort Queen Caroline at Westminster Abbey on October 11th, 1727 which was, by contemporary reports, an occasion of great magnificence. The music which Handel provided for the occasion was no less magnificent, and its reputation remained vivid for many years afterwards. Five years later, in 1732 the reputation of the coronation music was such that Handel advertised his first English Oratorio performance in a London theatre with the explanation "The Music to be disposed after the Manner of the Coronation Service'.

Certainly, contemporary accounts attest to the quality of Handel's music. Parker's Penny Post announced on October 4th: "Mr. Hendle (sic) has composed the Musick for the Abbey at the Coronation, and the Italian voices, with above a Hundred of the best Musicians will perform; and the Whole is allowed by those Judges in Musick who have already heard it, to exceed any Thing heretofore of the same Kind: It will be rehearsed this Week, but the time will be kept private, lest the Crowd of People should be an obstruction to the Performers." Later, the Norwich Gazette printed an account of the rehearsal of October 6th. "There were", the Gazette informed its readers, "40 Voices, and about 100 Violins, Trumpets, Hautboys, Kettle-Drums, and Bass's proportionable; besides an Organ, which was erected behind the Altar: And both the Musick and the Performers, were the Admiration of all the Audience."

In the planning of our recordings we have always preferred, when appropriate, an alternation of sound spectrum; thus we have chosen to intersperse three Coronation Anthems with the three Concerti a Due Cori. This in fact works particularly well, since the Concerti can surely be said to equal the Anthems in splendor. Indeed, one could easily imagine the Concerti as being an accompaniment to the Coronation itself.

These are mature works dating from the late 1740s and originating with Handel's Oratorios. The title "a due cori" is not Handel's own, yet it accurately reflects the content since each is scored for two wind groups (designated primo coro and secondo coro by Handel himself) in addition to strings and continuo. The groups in all three concertos contain oboes and bassoons, and in the two Concertos in F a pair of horns is added to each group, producing a sound which blends perfectly with that of the Anthems. If some of the tunes sound familiar one need not be surprised; Handel re-presented much of his music in different forms. Perhaps in a way the sense of familiarity thus generated has contributed to his lasting popularity.

Baroque Music Library