Imagine a time when the Thames was the busiest highway in London, and the king’s barge a most glorious water-borne rolls-royce of golden curlicues. What could be a lovelier accompaniment to a balmy summer evening bobbing along the river than music wafting across the water.
King George I commissioned the most fashionable composer in London, George Friedrich Handel, to write just such a piece. The Water Music premiered on July 7, 1717 at around 8pm. It was a hit. The king asked for the suites to be played repeatedly on the trip from Whitehall to Chelsea and back again.
Handel is, of course, much more than the Water Music. He was one of the most successful, talented and prolific composers of the baroque period. He’s never really fallen out of favour, and his fellow composers rated him highly during his own life and indeed, they have ever since. The Messiah, Zadok the Priest, the Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline, dozens of operas and oratorios — Handel’s legacy is alive and well and probably being played or sung in a concert hall near you. His work has been sampled and borrowed by everyone from Mozart to Musica Sequenza.
Today, February 23, is George Friedrich Handel’s birthday. However, calendars have changed since 1685, and the actual degree of his Sun is 15° Pisces — around 10° later. He was born with a New Moon and Neptune, the planet of music in Pisces. Since Neptune is only in Pisces every 160 years, that’s a pretty special placement. Both JS Bach and Domenico Scarlatti were born in the same year.
A reader, Simon, pointed out in the comments on Seal that many composers were born in the Chinese Year of the Ox or the Pig. It’s an interesting point and might relate to the Saturn-Jupiter cycle. I note that Handel and Bach have Neptune in Pisces, and Jupiter and Saturn in adjoining signs.
Here is the Water Music which premiered when the Sun, Mercury, Jupiter in watery Cancer was trined by the Moon in watery Scorpio.