Monday, 10 September 2012

The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba...

This week when I was sitting at my desk thinking about possible pieces or composers for a post - my thoughts were interrupted by the inevitable and unstoppable sound of my mother's ringtone - a synthesised version of Handel's 'Arrival of the Queen of Sheba'. When my mother asked me to see if I could figure out how to stop the constant noise of her voicemail service trying to contact her every two minutes, I found that there is no option to turn it off. Although irritating, I suppose it is better than the four of five blackberry and iphone ringtones that everyone has. I then realised that maybe I was being sent a message (no pun intended) to write a blogpost about the piece.
George Frideric Handel
(1685 - 1759)

Although not one of my favourite composers, I admire the works of Handel as I find his music to be precise and delicate - unlike the overwhelming sound of other, later composers. However, I find most of Handel's most popular works to be overplayed. In particular - his Messiah. This is irritating to me, as I absolutely love Handel's Messiah and definitely rate it as one of the greatest classical works of all time.

The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba comes from an oratorio called 'Solomon' - a libretto based on the biblical stories of King Solomon. This movement is by far the most famous, and rightly so - as it is instantly uplifting, joyful and regal - always a crowd pleaser. The most amusing passages are perhaps the miniature conversations between strings and wind that encourage and develop the original theme. Despite constant repetition and trills in a lot of the passages, with little variation in the music in terms of the dynamics and instrumental range - it is instead the melodies and harmonies that drive the piece in several different directions. In conclusion, this piece is playful, delicate and unforgettable. The synthesised ringtone however, could drive anyone bonkers.

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