Handel’s Music For The Royal Fireworks was composed in 1749 to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and the end of the War of the Austrian Succession. The site chosen was the fashionable upper part of St. James Park, which was becoming known at that time as Green Park. The Green Park ‘Machine’, which housed the pyrotechnics was an elaborate affair adorned with “statues and other figures, festoons of flowers, and other lustres”.
It was announced that there would be some 10,000 rockets and other devices to be let off, all culminating in a grand, burning sun with ‘Vivat Rex’ at its centre. There were also rumours that the event was to be accompanied by an impressively large band of military music and mention was made of “40 trumpets, 20 french horns, 16 hautboys (oboes), 16 bassoons, 8 pairs of kettle drums, 12 side drums, a proper number of flutes and fifes; with 100 cannon to go off singly at intervals”. It is unlikely that Handel had ever conceived such forces and it was merely the promoter’s hyberbole, not least because it was unlikely that there were sufficient numbers of extra military musicians available that could read music, as most played from memory. It is also likely that Handel, and his publisher, were conscious that future performances would be hindered by such forces. The autographed score lists the instrumentation as 9 trumpets, 9 french horns, 24 hautboys, 12 bassoons, 3 pairs of kettle drums and up to 4 side drums.
The work is in five movements, although Handel’s original score did not indicate in which order they should be played. However, in this score they are arranged to be played as follows: Overture, Bourée, La Paix, Minuets and La Réjouissance.
This arrangement has been recorded by the Leyland Band, conducted by Thomas Wyss, and appears on the CD Crown Imperial . A soundclip is available here
Item Code: TPBB-039
Duration: c. 19 minutes