17 July, 1717: Handel’s “Water Music” is played on the Thames for King George I. He went for Baroque on the river.
As Michael Steen* points out, the story that Handel “tried to regain the King’s favour by serenading him, uninvited, is untrue: the music was written later.” Handel had to work at self-selling of course, who does not? But his success was surely due to his prolific output of dramatic effects and ingenious musical structures.
For a man born (23 February 1685) in Halle, Handel became the quintessential composer for the English. His Zadok the Priest became the coronation piece and is often played at Westminster Abbey, where Handel was buried with full State honours. No wonder Wagner (born 20 miles away from Handel’s birthplace) grumpily observed on a trip to the Old Dart: “everyone holds a Handel vocal score as if it were a prayer book.”**
The Water Music is justly now as famous as ‘Largo,’ and the ‘Messiah.’ Here is a version by the English Baroque Soloists: