On November 19, 2016, The Albany Symphony first performed Handel's Water Music Suite at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. On July 17, Water Music will be 300 years old. July 2nd through the 8th, The Albany Symphony will once again perform this timeless suite on their WaterMusicNY Tour, celebrating the bicentennial of The Erie Canal.
German-born baroque composer George Frideric Handel was commissioned by King George I of England to write a highly spirited piece to entertain the royals on a cruise down the River Thames. The cruise included a plethora of immensely decorated barges, boats filled with spectators, as well as a firework show after the performance.
The suite is primarily in dance form and is written for fifty musicians, engaging recorders, flutes, bassoons, trumpets, horns, violins, and basses. The king was delighted by the piece, and after the barge party, Water Music was performed four more times for the king's court. Percussion was even added to the piece (as performing on a barge limited the use of percussion).
While selections from Water Music were published during Handel's lifetime, the full suite was not published until 1788, three decades after his death.
Because it was posthumously assembled, the original order that Handel intended the various movements to be played in is unknown. Traditionally, however, movements are organized by the key and instrumentation of which they are played, therefore the piece is now organized into three subsuites— F major, D major, and G major. Each movement varies in musical character and even in provenance, including bourrée— a duple-time style known historically in French dance— and other minuets and waltzes reflecting different aristocratic regions of the British Isles. Other dances in the suite include the sarabande, the gigue, and the rigaudon.
The 300-year-old suite will once again be played in its original context by The Albany Symphony on their WaterMusicNY Tour. Orchestra Director David Allen Miller will conduct the symphony on a barge, including fireworks after the performance at select locations. Before each performance there will also be additional, family, friendly, activities. including street vendors and guest performers.