Friday, 19 February 2010

George Frederic Handel: The Harmonious Blacksmith

It may not be true but the story printed below is a bit of fun! Perhaps it was a smithy near Chandos House? It is good excuse (if excuse is needed) to link to a great performance!
The facts are that this work is final movement, an Air and Variations in E major, from the Suite No. 5 in E minor in the first book of suites published in 1720. The story was apparently invented after Handel’s death!

"IF all the stories of musicians and their work were to be sifted for that which is the plain truth, unembellished by fancy, we fear that the number that stood the test would not make a very cumbrous volume. It is not a hard matter to concoct a pretty fair story, and it is much easier to embellish one not, however, that the writer knows from experience. One of the stories of this suspected class is that so frequently told of Handel's air and variations called "The Harmonious Blacksmith."
The story runs thus : One day when this composer was out taking a ramble, a sudden storm came up and drove him for shelter into a convenient blacksmith's shop. While there he watched the men at work and was attracted by the melodious tones of the hammers as they struck the anvil. He kept the scene in mind and later wrote this piece, giving in it a musical imitation of the occasion.
If the reader will play this piece and then listen to the din made by some muscular son of Vulcan, we believe he will, with the writer, be unable to hear the anvil strokes in Handel's air; or when surrounded by the noise of the shop we defy him to see the parallel between the clank of the hammers and Handel's smooth and pleasant melody.
From Gates, W. Francis 1896 Anecdotes of Great Composers London: Weekes & Co. (with minor edits)

Listen to Moura Lympany playing the The Harmonious Blacksmith on YouTube

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