During our Easter concert on Sunday 14 April in the Saint Nicolas church in La Roche-en-Ardenne, we will start with the aria “Eternal Source of Light Divine” from the “Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne” (HWV 74) by Georg Friedrich Händel.
I listened to a number of performances of this aria and I really love this beautiful, almost soothing piece. For me it evokes peaceful feelings, which I do not necessarily link to a souvereign on a throne.
When Googling, I find nevertheless the following:
It is not by coincidence that the first part of this ode refers to both the souvereign as to the eternal source of light, shining peacefully on the Kingdom.
The cantata celebrates Queen Anne’s birthday, as well as the accomplishment of the Treaty of Utrecht (negotiated by the Tory ministry of Anne in 1712) to end the War of the Spanish Succession. I think it is a great achievement of Händel to appeal to these feelings of peace in this work. He composed this aria in 1712, having just started to live and work at the British Court.
The libretto was written by Ambrose Philips and the first line, “Eternal source of light divine”, provides an alternative title for the work.
It is scored for 3 solo voices, choir and chamber orchestra. The text is to be sung by the soloists, while the refrain is sung by the four-part choir.
Each of the seven stanzas of the ode concludes with the following words sung by the chorus:
The day that gave great Anna birth,
Who fix’d a lasting peace on Earth.
You can hear our version for organ, voice and flute on 14 April 2019. The concert starts at 16.00 hrs. Just for you to know … Händel died on the 14th of April … in 1759 …
Enjoy the week!