Work: Zadok the Priest
About This Work
Zadok the Priest is one of four anthems composed by Handel for the coronation of George II, which took place on October 11, 1727. Handel was commissioned to write the music required for the service because of an interregnum in the post of organist
and composer to the Chapel Royal, the incumbent of which traditionally composed the music for such occasions. The event in Westminster Abbey was one of great magnificence and splendor, involving forces larger than Handel had used. They included a chorus of 40 and an orchestra reported to have numbered 160, including trumpets, oboes, bassoons, and timpani. Zadok the Priest, the text of which is taken from the first chapter of 1 Kings in the Old Testament, was the anthem traditionally performed during the Anointing, previous settings including one by Henry Lawes used at the coronations of both Charles II, in 1661, and James II, in 1685. Handel's is a much more elaborate and striking work, dependent for its huge impact on cumulative effect and the great coup de théâtre achieved when the chorus' powerful declamatory outburst at the opening words interrupts the extended orchestral introduction. The anthem quickly became by far the most popular of the four, established in the repertoire as simply the Coronation Anthem, and a work performed on nearly every celebratory occasion. In 1784, it took center stage at the massive Handel Commemoration, and its special place in British ceremonial has been underlined by its inclusion in every coronation service since that of George II.
-- Brian Robins
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