The Water Music is a collection of orchestral
movements, often considered three suites, composed by
George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717
after King George I had requested a concert on the
River Thames. The concert was performed by 50 musicians
playing on a barge near the royal barge from which the
King listened with close friends, including Anne
Vaughan, the Duchess of Bolton, the Duchess of
Newcastle, Countess of Darlington, the Countess of
Godolphin, Madam Kilmarnock, and the Earl of Orkney.
The barges, heading for Chelsea or Lambeth and leaving
the party after midnight, used the tides of the river.
George I was said to have enjoyed the suites so much
that he made the exhausted musicians play them three
times over the course of the outing.
The triple-time hornpipe dance rhythm was often used by
composers in England in the Baroque period. It is
probably artificial to draw too rigid a distinction
between the popular and art-music examples. Many
country dance examples are found in The Dancing Master,
such as "The Hole in the Wall", by Purcell, and there
are also extant theatrical choreographies that use
steps from French court ballet, but which
characteristically have step-units going across the
measure. Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel
composed hornpipes, and Handel occasionally gave "alla
hornpipe" as a tempo indication (see Handel's Water
Music). Today, the most well-known baroque hornpipe
tune is probably Purcell's "Hornpipe Rondeau" from the
incidental music to Abdelazer (which was used by
Benjamin Britten as the theme for his Young Person's
Guide To The Orchestra) or the 'Alla Hornpipe' movement
from the D major of Handel's Water Music suites.
Hornpipes are occasionally found in German music of
Although this piece was originally written for
Orchestra, I arranged it for Wind Ensemble (Flute,
Oboe, English Horn, Bb Clarinet, French Horn, C
Trumpet, Bass Clarinet & Bassoon).