In The Key Of Pisces: Handel

Tuesday February 23rd 2016
Handel and King George listening to the Water Music

Handel and King George I listening to The Water Music.

Imagine a time when the Thames was the busiest highway in London, and the king’s barge a most glorious water-borne rolls-royce of golden curlicues. What could be a lovelier accompaniment to a balmy summer evening bobbing along the river than music wafting across the water.

King George I commissioned the most fashionable composer in London, George Friedrich Handel, to write just such a piece. The Water Music premiered on July 7, 1717 at around 8pm. It was a hit. The king asked for the suites to be played repeatedly on the trip from Whitehall to Chelsea and back again.

Handel is, of course, much more than the Water Music. He was one of the most successful, talented and prolific composers of the baroque period. He’s never really fallen out of favour, and his fellow composers rated him highly during his own life and indeed, they have ever since. The Messiah, Zadok the Priest, the Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline, dozens of operas and oratorios — Handel’s legacy is alive and well and probably being played or sung in a concert hall near you. His work has been sampled and borrowed by everyone from Mozart to Musica Sequenza.

From Astrodatabank with a C rating

From Astrodatabank with a C rating

Today, February 23, is George Friedrich Handel’s birthday. However, calendars have changed since 1685, and the actual degree of his Sun is 15° Pisces — around 10° later. He was born with a New Moon and Neptune, the planet of music in Pisces. Since Neptune is only in Pisces every 160 years, that’s a pretty special placement. Both JS Bach and Domenico Scarlatti were born in the same year.

A reader, Simon, pointed out in the comments on Seal that many composers were born in the Chinese Year of the Ox or the Pig. It’s an interesting point and might relate to the Saturn-Jupiter cycle. I note that Handel and Bach have Neptune in Pisces, and Jupiter and Saturn in adjoining signs.

Here is the Water Music which premiered when the Sun, Mercury, Jupiter in watery Cancer was trined by the  Moon in watery Scorpio.

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  1. Simon Jenner says:

    Thanks Christina – as ever fascinating. I ought to add that it’s the quality of Chinese year that’s so particular. Ox being the great founders of schools and laws. Pig is the great completer and synthesiser of all that’s come before. Purcell of the whole British tradition for 200 years, Rameau of French baroque, Mozart of Viennese classical, Ravel of French romanticism and impressionism. Berlioz though ends and commences things, and that’s of course Pig at the end of the cycle. I’ll look over the Jupiter/Saturn element.

    I’d add a few more names to Pisces. Sorry I missed Grace Williams 19 2 1906, Elizabeth Maconchy, 19 3 1907, and Gyorgy Kurtag 19 2 1926. And Chopin 22 2 1809 (OS) 1 3 1810 (NS) thigh there’s some confusion still. And Gian Francesco Malipiero 18 3 1882.

    As far as crude Sun disposition goes, many composers seem born from Sagittarius through Gemini, Sagittarius itself remarkably prolific, its passionate abstract perhaps an ideal element. Cancer/Leo and Scorpio seem the least though of course with great composers. Best, Simon

  2. Sabrina says:

    I have so many fond memories connected to Handel…so glad to know he’s a Pisces! Water music has always felt like home.

  3. Heather Dunmore says:

    I visited the Foundling Museum in London last week which has a Handel collection – he clearly cared for and supported the foundlings.