Top European Choirs Series: The Coronation
The Ceremonial Baroque Music of the British Court
RIAS Chamber Choir
Finnish Baroque Orchestra
Justin Doyle, conductor
The RIAS Chamber Choir is one of the absolute top choirs in Germany. In the third concert in the European Top Choirs Series, over 60 performers from the RIAS Chamber Choir and FiBO together dive deep into the glorious history of the British coronation music and the court. The concert programme contains works that were composed in 1685, 1714 and 1727 as coronation music.
As Charles III and Camilla are crowned and 70 years will have passed in June since the coronation of Elizabeth II, the coronation ceremony with all its music seem like a detached media spectacle of the political power. However, during the bygone centuries its function was very much to strengthen the highest political, military and ecclesiastical power. Händel’s extensive overture to his Occasional Oratorio (1746) is political music throughout. With this oratorio dealing with battle and victory, the composer made a very clear statement in favour of the House of Hanover, which had recently ascended the British throne, and against the House of Stuart – and all this at a time when the Jacobite risings where not yet resolved.
Henry Purcell’s I Was Glad (1685) was performed at the coronation of James II, with John Blow, the teacher of the composer, conducting the music. Purcell himself sang as a bass in the Chapel Royal in the anthem, which makes distinctive use of harmony. Blow’s opulent Chaconne in G Major could have been performed during the banquet at Westminster Hall. William Croft’s composition to Psalm 84 was performed at the coronation of George I in 1714, and it is an example of the ever more splendid use of the orchestra.
Händel’s masterly four coronation anthems (1727) follow the course of the whole church service. The text to Zadok the Priest, which describes the anointment of King Solomon, was used as part of the coronation ceremony as early as 973. Händel’s composition has been performed at every anointment of the monarch ever since the coronation of George II. The brilliant music is known also from European top football. This is no surprise, as every bar of it speaks of power, wealth and admiration.