Suite No 5
in E major is a step further up the cycle of fifths from ‘youthful’ A major and E is the sharpest (and ‘highest’) key in general use. It was traditionally associated with heaven, but in the works of Handel it would seem that paradise is firmly terrestrial. True, the free-flowing prelude, the allemande and the courante are all lucidly gracious, but Handel dispenses with a sarabande and as his finale offers a variation-set on a tune so earthy in metrical symmetry and diatonic in harmonization that it quickly won the popular title of ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’. Again, Handel steers aristocratic finesse towards a rawly demotic future. Though Handel’s blacksmith, benign in harmony, may attempt celestial levitation in the shooting scales of his final variation, the effect is more comic than transcendent.
from notes by Wilfrid Mellers © 1995