Wednesday, July 9, 2014


The other day, we talked about the Independence Day, and I made mention of enjoying the perennial fireworks display.

Well, today, I look into the Music for the Royal Fireworks, a wind suite composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749. Contracted by King George II of Great Britian, it accompanied a fireworks display in London's Green Park on April 27th, to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession. The Treaty to end hostilities was signed in Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748.
The musicians performed in a special building constructed for the event by Servandoni, a theatre set designer. The fireworks were designed by Thomas Desguliers, son of a cleric/scientist. Though the fireworks display was not particularly successful, the music was extremely well-received.  The music had also been performed earlier as a full rehearsal in Vauxhall Gardens, with over 12,000 people turning out to take part, causing a tremendous, three-hour traffic jam of carriages. Sounds like one of today's concerts at the O2 Arena in London, or the MGM Grand Garden arena on the Las Vegas Strip.

Composed with five movements, the suite includes:
The Overture with adagio, allegro, lentement and allegro
the Bourree
the La Paix largo alla siciliana
The Rejouissance allegro
Menuets I and II

The instuments involved include 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, a contrabassoon, nine natural trumpets, nine natural horns, three pairs of kettledrums and side drums. The combination is most impressive, and remains one of classical music's best remembered pieces. Everybody loves the Fireworks music.
By the way, fireworks, or pyrotechnics, have a long history, beginning in China in the 7th Century. Over time, they have excited and delighted for cultural or religious celebrations. In the 17th Century, with the popularity of chinoiserie in Europe (the fascination of all things Oriental/Chinese), fireworks gained popularity, too, for special occasions. By Handel's time, the moment was right for a major spectacle and a major work, commissioned by the King, to be seen and heard by enthusiastic Londoners.

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