The King Shall Rejoice by Handel

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“The King Shall Rejoice”

History and Analysis

After the death of King George I, Handel was employed to write several anthems for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline by the Chapel Royal. In his second Coronation Anthem, “The King Shall Rejoice,” Handel used instrumentation, contrasting sections, and musical gesture to reflect the text of Psalm 21: verses one, three, and five.

The musical life of the Chapel Royal was affected by two important deaths. The first was the unexpected death of the King on his way to Hanover on June 11th, 1727. The other was that of William Croft, the Chapel’s foremost composer, two months later. Croft held the offices of Composer, Organist and Master of the Children at the Chapel Royal, as well as the post of Organist at Westminster Abbey. Maurice Green was the obvious successor to Croft, but he couldn’t take on all of Croft’s former offices due to his position at St. Paul’s Cathedral. On September 4th, Green was appointed Organist and Composer, retaining his post at St. Paul’s, and Bernard Gates became Master of the Children. Later in September, John Robinson (a former Child of the Chapel Royal), succeeded to Croft’s position as Organist at Westminster Abbey.

Handel decided to adopt British nationality in February of this same year, just before his forty-second birthday. George I signed the Naturalization Bill on February 20th, before his unseen death several months later. Handel never participated in the day-to-day life of the Chapel, but instead participated by providing the Chapel with music for special occasions. The timing of Handel’s naturalization had an immediate musical benefit, because it enabled him to contribute to the coronation service for King George II and Q...

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...e work is well balanced, with the outer two movements in quadruple time, and the inner two in triple, with the short passage in the middle bridging the two halves. Handel gives the piece a grand and majestic feeling with his full orchestration, emphasizing the texts from Psalm 21 with a combination of homophony and polyphony, as well as contrasting instrument choices. Finally, he uses musical gesture, such as the halo image-painting seen in the bridging passage. With every movement marked as allegro, this anthem has a festive spirit, making it perfect for the actual crowning of the king and queen. The coronation proved to be a landmark in Handel’s association with the Chapel, and also in his wider relationship with British society. It was a well-attended event of major social significance, and the composer provided the listeners with a memorable musical experience.

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