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Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne 'Eternal source of light divine'

HWV74; for the Queen's birthday, 6 February, probably in 1713
author of text

The monarch’s birthday was traditionally an occasion for court festivities and one of the main tasks of the Master of the Queen’s Musick was to compose a suitably joyful Ode. John Eccles held this post during the early years of the century, and the papers of the Lord Chamberlain’s office record payments to him for several such compositions. There is no record of the first performance of Handel’s Ode Eternal Source of Light Divine but it was obviously intended for the Queen’s birthday on February 6, most probably in 1713. The author of the Ode, praising the Queen’s virtues as peacemaker, was Ambrose Philips who provided an inspired text (a relatively rare event for what were usually thoroughly obsequious poems) likely to bring out the best in Handel. In its nine movements the work contains much variety, from the gentle pastoral duet ‘Kind health descends’ to the splendidly rumbustious bass solo ‘Let envy then conceal her head’ and the lively alto and bass duet ‘Let rolling streams’. Handel later used this movement’s ground bass, characterised by leaping octaves, in his second Concerto ‘a due cori’. The chorus too has a surprising amount of variety in the repeated refrain ‘The day that gave great Anna birth’ and is also given the opportunity for an echo chorus during the final movement. But it was in the opening movement (one that owes much to the influence of Purcell) that Handel produced his most inspired writing: the famous alto Richard Elford and an obviously fine court trumpeter, supported by sustaining string chords, were provided with ravishing music of quite melting beauty.

from notes by Robert King © 1989


Handel: Music for royal occasions
CDA66315Archive Service
Aksel! - Arias by Bach, Handel & Mozart
Studio Master: SIGCD435Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Handel: Essential Handel
KING6Super-budget price sampler — Download only
Let the bright seraphim
SIGCD289Download only
Light Divine
Studio Master: SIGCD526Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The James Bowman Collection
KING3Super-budget price sampler — Archive Service


Movement 1: Eternal source of light divine
Track 12 on KING6 [3'20] Super-budget price sampler — Download only
Track 1 on CDA66315 [3'23] Archive Service
Track 20 on KING3 [3'23] Super-budget price sampler — Archive Service
Track 22 on SIGCD289 [3'21] Download only
Track 8 on SIGCD435 [3'17] Download only
Track 2 on SIGCD526 [3'10] Download only
Movement 2: The day that gave great Anna birth
Track 2 on CDA66315 [2'45] Archive Service
Movement 3: Let all the winged race with joy
Track 3 on CDA66315 [2'34] Archive Service
Movement 4: Let flocks and herds their fear forget
Track 4 on CDA66315 [2'38] Archive Service
Movement 5: Let rolling streams their gladness show
Track 5 on CDA66315 [2'38] Archive Service
Movement 6: Kind health descends on downy wings
Track 6 on CDA66315 [4'41] Archive Service
Movement 7: The day that gave great Anna birth
Track 7 on CDA66315 [1'42] Archive Service
Movement 8: Let envy then conceal her head
Track 8 on CDA66315 [2'13] Archive Service
Movement 9: United nations shall combine
Track 9 on CDA66315 [3'11] Archive Service

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