Composers Datebook®

Handel with "no strings attached"

George Frederic Handel (1685 - 1759) — Music for the Royal Fireworks (Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner, cond.) Argo 414596

Composer's Datebook - April 27, 2021


April 27, 2021


Few of us today really know–or care–very much about the War of Austrian Succession, a conflict that troubled Europe in the 18th century. For music lovers, it’s enough to know that to celebrate the end of that war, George Frideric Handel was commissioned to compose music for a fireworks concert in London’s Green Park, an event that took place on today’s date in the year 1749.

Back then there were no such things as microphones and loudspeakers, so Handel’s score called for a huge military band of 24 oboes, 9 horns, 9 trumpets, 3 sets of timpani, 12 bassoons, 2 contrabassoons—and strings. When King George II was told about it, he balked a little at the expense: “Well, at least I hope there won’t be any fiddles,” he commented, and so Handel was informed the strings were definitely off.

A public rehearsal was held at the Vauxhall Gardens and a London newspaper reported that 100 musicians performed for an audience of more than 12,000, causing a 3-hour traffic jam of carriages and pedestrians on London Bridge. The official event with fireworks went off with a bang–as well as a few fires breaking out.

Music Played in Today's Program

George Frederic Handel (1685 - 1759) — Music for the Royal Fireworks (Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner, cond.) Argo 414596

On This Day


  • 1812 - German opera composer Friedrich von Flotow, in Toitendorf (Teutendorf) estate, near Neu-Sanitz, Mecklenburg-Schwerin;

  • 1894 - Russian-born America composer and famous musical lexicographer Nicolas Slonimsky, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: April 15);


  • 1871 - German composer and piano virtuoso Sigismond Thalberg, age 59, in Posillipo, Italy;

  • 1915 - Russian composer and pianist Alexander Scriabin, age 43, in Moscow (Julian date: April 14);

  • 1992 - French composer, organist and teacher Olivier Messiaen, age 83, in Paris;


  • 1720 - Handel: opera "Radamisto" (1st version), in London at the King's Theater in the Haymarket, during the first season of operas presented by the Royal Academy of Music (Gregorian date: May 8); The performance is attended by King George I and the Prince of Wales (Handel dedicates the score to the King); The singer Margherita Dursastanti appears in a Handel work for the first time in London;

  • 1735 - Handel: opera "Alcina" (Julian date: April 16);

  • 1736 - Handel: anthem "Sing unto God," in London at the German Chapel of St. James's Palace, during the wedding of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Augusta, Princess of Saxe-Gotha (Gregorian date: May 8);

  • 1749 - Handel: "Music for the Royal Fireworks" performed during fireworks display in London (Gregorian date: May 8);

  • 1867 - Gounod: opera "Romeo and Juliet," in Paris at the Théatre-Lyrique;

  • 1877 - Massenet: opera "Le Roi de Lahore" (The King of Lahore"), in Paris;

  • 1893 - Rachmaninoff: opera "Aleko," in Moscow (Gregorian date: May 9);

  • 1907 - Stravinsky: Symphony in Eb, at a private performance in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: May 10); The first public performance took place in St. Petersburg on January 23, 1908, conducted by F. Blumenfield (Gregorian date: Feb 5);

  • 1927 - Weinberger: opera "Schwanda the Bagpiper," in Prague at the National Theater;

  • 1928 - Stravinsky: ballet, "Apollon musagète," in Washington, D.C., choreographed by Adolf Bohm; The European premiere of this ballet occurred on June 12 in Paris, choreographed by Georges Balanchine;

  • 1937 - Stravinsky: ballet, "Jeu de cartes" (Card Game), by the American Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, with the composer conducting; This work was part of a Stravinsky-Balanchine matinée consisting of "Apollon musagète," "Le Baiser de la fée," and the premiere of "Jeu de cartes";

  • 1987 - Daniel Pinkham: Sonata No. 3 for Organ and Strings, at St. Peter's Church in Osterville, Mass., by organist Richard Benefield, with a string quartet conducted by the composer;

  • 1992 - George Tsontakis: "Perpertual Angelus" (No. 2 of "Four Symphonic Quartets" after poems by T.S. Eliot), by the Tuscaloosa Symphony, Ransom Wilson conducting;