April 16, 2021

Händel and the eventful coronation of Jorge II

Händel and the eventful coronation of Jorge II


It is necessary to recognize that, despite having been our enemies indefatigable for centuries and despite the apostasy in the sixteenth century and the persecution that followed, England remains, very deep in its heart, a sister Christian nation. And this can be seen especially in the admirable way they have to love and honor their traditions, especially those that have to do with their monarchy. In this sense, the interpretation of two of Händel's four "Hymns of Coronation" this weekend in the Auditorium may well be considered a window into a luminous past from which perhaps very tasty lessons may be obtained.

Georg Friedrich Händel, that German composer of Italian music naturalized in England, wrote four hymns to be played during the solemn coronation ceremony of George II on October 11, 1727 at Westminster Abbey. This place has been for centuries as the central pyramid of the memory of England since all the coronation ceremonies since the conquest of William the Norman in 1066 take place here, next to the tombs of all the kings and of all heroes that has given this noble nation. Of course this "abbey" is no longer an abbey. There are no longer monks but more or less Protestant clerics, since it is the central temple of Anglicanism under the direct protection of the sovereign. But until the times of the apostasy of Henry VIII it was, specifically a Benedictine abbey, one of the first to be stolen by the king (and his nobles) throughout the country.

Well, it was in this Gothic beauty, the one mentioned on October 11, 1727, when the four Coronade Anthems by Händel were heard for the first time: Zadok, the priest (HWV 258), My heart is inditing (HWV 259), The king shall rejoice (HWV 260) and Let thy hand be strengthened (HWV 261). Apparently it was a complete disaster the coronation of George II because, for example, "Zadok", which was thought for the moment in which anointed the king with the Holy Oil, was sung in a place that was not because they had forgotten to sing another of the hymns previously. But it does not matter because since then the four hymns have been sung in all the coronations that have been taking place since then and thousands of times, in addition, in theaters and concert halls around the world. Specifically Zadok is almost a British national anthem with "Rule, Britannia!" And the official, "God save the Queen." Curiously, when the monarch is a man, the hymn is changed to "God save the King" but Zadok does not change and always sings "God save the King! Long live the King! May the King live for ever! "Even when a woman occupies the throne, as is the case today. The reason is that it is a passage taken from the Bible, specifically the first book of the Kings which tells the anointing of King Solomon by Sadoc (the first High Priest of the First Temple) and -very interesting detail- also by the prophet Nathan, who was the one who threw in face King David, father of Solomon, his sin with the wife of Uriah, the Hittite.

It is known that Händel wrote in a certain way or another taking into consideration the quantity and quality of the musicians who were going to interpret his music. Little surprise that he would throw the rest with these four masterful compositions since he knew that he would have at his disposal all the choir of the Royal Chapel and, in addition, 47 additional singers. The orchestra could be composed of a total of 160 musicians, something that happened in very few occasions at that time. It was also an opportunity Handel had to show his gratitude to the king who had just died, George I, who signed him a decree of naturalization shortly before his death. The latter is not without its grace because the two Jorges (the one who had just died, George I, and the one who was going to be crowned in Westminster, George II, were as little English and as German as Handel himself.

It is a music that elevates the soul. It is easy to understand its tremendous popularity and to be interpreted tirelessly in all the repetitions of the ceremony of Jorge II that took place in theaters in London and throughout the country so that the people had the opportunity to enjoy, as well as the kingdom's peers. , of the Show. Now, however, coronation ceremonies-and weddings-are televised. The last of the coronations, that of Isabel II in 1953, can be seen almost complete here (https://youtu.be/52NTjasbmgw). It can be seen that the English take the ceremony quite seriously. One can not avoid a twinge of envy to remember, by comparison, the bland legal process of the proclamation in the Congress of our Felipe VI. It was not like that in the days of Handel. For example, the coronation ceremony of the third of the Jorges Hannover, the madman, took place in September 1761, in Westminster again, and was repeated without ceasing with the same choir and the same orchestra at the Covent Garden for 3 months .

To maximize Handel's "Zadok" listening experience, it is convenient to imagine the exact moment in which it sounds during the coronation ceremony. It is one of the most solemn and of more religious significance: the anointing of the new monarch with the Holy Oil, an echo of the anointing of the monarchs of Ancient Israel that prefigured that of Christ himself (which literally means "the anointed one") , who said to Pilate: «You say it, I am King». At that moment of the ceremony the king or queen sits on the Coronation Throne, which has been placed in the very center of Westminster Abbey on a multi-step podium. Under the Throne is placed the magic Stone of Destiny of Scone, in Scotland, on which all Scottish kings were crowned until Edward I Longshanks (yes: the bad of "Braveheart") stole it in the thirteenth century and brought it to London. Four knights of the Order of Garter hold a golden cloth so that no one but the king and the archbishop of Canterbury see the anointing. This is done because it is considered that this moment is sacred and no one should see it. The cleric takes the Holy Oil with the Spoon of the Coronation of an eagle-shaped vessel and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead, in the hands and on the heart of the sovereign. The Coronation Spoon is the only Crown Jewel of medieval times that is preserved. And while all this is happening, the chorus sings Zadok and the eyes of those present, presumably, are filled with tears. The fact that this music is the same as centuries later, in our dull days, served as the basis for the UEFA Champions League anthem Leage defines our time as effectively as the pomp and circumstance of Westminster ceremonies embody England's past .

P. S. The concert is also especially attractive for having the opportunity to see William Christie, a walking legend, hierarch of historicism, Caesar of the Baroque repertoire, founder of the ensemble «Les Arts Florisants».

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