These variations are among Handel’s best-known keyboard works. The composer was allegedly inspired to create its unusual theme when, seeking refuge in a smithy’s shop from a sudden rain-shower, he heard the blacksmith singing a cheerful melody to the sound of his anvil. Handel used the theme with five variations as the closing movement of his fifth keyboard suite, which he published in 1720. With its catchy theme, the Harmonious Blacksmith variations enjoyed increasing popularity thereafter, including as an independent piece.
The edition presented here uses Handel’s edition of the Suite as its main source (since he definitely checked it personally), along with the available manuscript sources.
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The present variations are a single edition of the final movement of Suite V (HWV 430). The eight suites HWV 426–433 were first published in 1720 as “Suites de Pieces / pour le Clavecin / Composées / par / G. F. Handel. / Premier Volume / London printed for the Author”. In a preface to this publication the composer writes: “I have been obliged to publish Some of the … more
About the composer
Georg Friedrich Händel
He numbers among the most important composers of Italian operas and is a major proponent of the oratorio; his immense oeuvre also comprises concerti grossi and solo concertos, liturgical music, chamber music, and music for keyboard instruments. He worked in London.
|1685||Born in Halle (Saale) on February 23.|
|1702||Organist at the Palace Cathedral in Halle.|
|1703||Employed as a violinist, later as a harpsichordist, at the Oper am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg; premiere in 1705 of the opera “Der in Krohnen erlangte Glücks-Wechsel, oder: Almira, Königin von Castilien” (“The Change of Fortune Won in Crowns, or: Almira, Queen of Castile”).|
|1706–10||Stay in Italy, with opera performances.|
|1710||Employed as music director by the Elector of Hanover. The 1711 London premiere of “Rinaldo” is a great success. In 1712, he will travel once more to London, where he will remain for the rest of his life.|
|from 1720||Important position at the Royal Academy of Music, which he founded in 1717.|
|from 1724||Successful premieres of “Giulio Cesare in Egitto,” “Tamerlano,” “Rodelinda” in 1725, and “Alessandro” in 1726.|
|1728||After the dissolution of the Royal Academy of Music, Handel continues to lead his own company.|
|1733||Competition from the Nobility Opera, which is supported by the aristocracy. Premiere of “Orlando.”|
|1734||Engagement of a French ballet troupe to outdo the Nobility Opera. Integration of French elements into his own operas.|
|from 1735||Premiere of “Alcina,” “Giustino” in 1737, “Serse” in 1738 (containing the famous largo “Ombra mai fù”).|
|1736||Three “Water Music Suites,” HWV 348–350.|
|1739||Twelve “Concerti grossi,” Op. 6, after Corelli’s example.|
|1741||Unsuccessful premiere of the melodrama “Deidamia”. From then on, composition of oratorios, including “Messiah” (1741), “Judas Maccabaeus” (1746), and “Jephtha” (1751).|
|1749||“Music for the Royal Fireworks,” HWV 351.|
|1759||Death in London on April 14.|