The favour George Frederic Handel found with the British Royal family contributed significantly to his musical style and output. Outside the operatic genre, pieces like the Music for the Royal Fireworks and the Coronation Anthems remain some of his most popular. Here is a roundup of four royal works which best demonstrate his musical style.


1. The Water Music

Written to accompany George I’s royal barge to a summer supper in Chelsea, Handel's Water Music recalled the Venetian-style musical boating parties on the lake at his Hanover palace. Its three suites, mingling French, German and English styles, reveal Handel as a consummate master of the orchestra.

2. The Coronation Anthems

Handel’s talent for rising to the occasion is demonstrated by the four anthems he wrote for the coronation of George II and Queen Caroline in 1727. Sensitive to Westminster Abbey’s acoustics, the composer evokes the ceremony’s essential awe and serenity.

3. Judas Maccabaeus

For the Biblical hero of Judas Maccabaeus read royal warrior William, Duke of Cumberland, busy fighting Jacobite rebels and French armies while Handel underlined the theme of national independence. Superbly crafted, the work’s ravishing duets and choruses celebrate peace and liberty.

4. Music for the Royal Fireworks

King George II ‘hoped there would be no fiddles’ in the musical prelude to Green Park fireworks marking the end of war with France. Handel obliged with a wind-and-brass orchestra (including 24 oboes) in a big-band suite of festive dances.

Jonathan Keates


A guide to George Frideric Handel


Review: Handel’s Water Music (Minkowski)