Composers Datebook®

Handel and "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”

George Frederic Handel (1685-1757) excerpt, fr Solomon English Baroque Soloists; John Eliot Gardiner, cond. Philips 412 612

Composers Datebook for March 17, 2021


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March 17, 2021


One of Handel’s “greatest hits” had its premiere on today’s date in 1749 at London’s Covent Garden Theatre, as part of his new Biblical oratorio, “Solomon.”

The text of Handel’s oratorio praises the legendary Hebrew King’s piety in Part 1, his wisdom in Part 2, and the splendor of his royal court in Part 3.

As the instrumental introduction to the third part of “Solomon,” Handel composed a jaunty sinfonia he titled “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.” In the Book of Kings, the Queen of Sheba travels from afar to visit the splendid court of King Solomon, arriving, as the Bible puts it, "with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones."

Handel’s music admirably captures the excitement of a lavish state visit of an exotic foreign Queen, and first-night London audiences would have had no problem reading into Handel’s depiction of an elaborate compliment of their reigning monarch, King George II.

Speaking of reigning monarchs, at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, Handel’s Sinfonia was used to accompany a video of James Bond (aka actor Daniel Craig) arriving at Buckingham Palace, where 007 was received by Elizabeth II.

Music Played in Today's Program

George Frederic Handel (1685-1757) excerpt, fr Solomon English Baroque Soloists; John Eliot Gardiner, cond. Philips 412 612

On This Day


  • 1839 - German composer Josef Rheinberger, in Vaduz, Liechtenstein;

  • 1920 - American composer John LaMontaine, in Chicago;


  • 1862 - French opera composer Jacques François Halévy, age 62, in Nice;


  • 1733 - Handel: oratorio "Deborah" in London at the King's Theater in the Haymarket (Gregorian date: March 28);

  • 1846 - Verdi: opera "Atilla," in Venice at the Teatro La Fenice;

  • 1867 - Brahms: Waltzes, Op. 39, for piano, in Vienna;

  • 1879 - Tchaikovsky: opera "Eugene Onegin," in Moscow (Gregorian date: Mar. 29);

  • 1882 - Glazunov: Symphony No. 1, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Mar. 29);

  • 1892 - Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1 (first movement only) (Gregorian date: Mar. 29);

  • 1945 - Miakovsky: Cello Concerto, in Moscow;

  • 1951 - Dessau: opera "Die Verhör des Lukullus" (The Sentencing of Lucullus), in East Berlin at the Deutsche Staatsoper (Berlin State Opera); This opera was revised as "Die Verurteilung des Lukullus" (The Judgement of Lucullus) at the same theater on October 12, 1851; The libretto is by the German poet and playwright Bertold Brecht;

  • 1954 - Quincy Porter: "Concerto Concertante" for two pianos and orchestra, in Louisville, Ky.; This work won that year's Pulitzer Prize for Music;

  • 1967 - Levy: opera "Mourning Becomes Electra" (after the play by Eugene O'Neill) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City;

  • 1972 - Crumb: "Vox balaenae" for three masked musicians, in Washington, D.C.;

  • 2002 - Paul Schoenfield: "Partita" for violin and piano, at a Chamber Music Society of Minnesota concert in St. Paul, by violinist Young-Nam Kim, with the composer at the piano;


  • 1830 - Frederic Chopin makes his concert debut in Warsaw, performing his own Piano Concerto in f-minor.