George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) settled in London in the autumn of 1712. His ‘Birthday Ode for Queen Anne’ represents one of the first works he wrote in England, completing an initial version in early 1713 before revising it a year later. The words were by the English poet and politician Ambrose Philips (1674–1749) and celebrated not only the Queen’s birthday but also the Treaty of Utrecht, which had been negotiated in 1712 to end the War of Spanish Succession. Queen Anne’s birthday fell on 6 February and it seems likely that the work was performed in her presence in 1714, either at St. James’s Palace or Windsor Castle, although no record of this performance is known. Handel does, however, write the names of the solo singers at the beginning of this manuscript, including the countertenor Richard Elford. The name of the trumpet soloist, who performs an important obbligato role in the first and last movements of the work, is not given. The work is also known from the title provided by the first line of text, ‘Eternal source of light divine’. Queen Anne subsequently granted Handel a ‘pension’ of two hundred pounds a year for life.
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Amongst our collections of printed and recorded music you can admire music manuscripts written by renowned composers. Here are some of our most famous, starting from the 13th century.