A great fireworks display needs to have an explosive soundtrack. And who better to recommend then BBC Radio 3 presenter, Clemency Burton-Hill? In here recent book, Year of Wonder, Clemmie explains why Music for the Royal Fireworks by George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) is THE piece of music to play when kicking off your fireworks display:
‘Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks has nothing to do with today’s tradition of Guy Fawkes’ Night and bonfires in Britain, but as pyrotechnical music goes, it’s hard to beat.
The piece was actually written to accompany a huge fireworks display in London’s Green Park in 1749 to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, seen as a major success for Britain. Before the grand ceremony took place in central London near the royal residence of St James’s Palace, a full public rehearsal was staged at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, south of the river. Astonishingly, more than twelve thousand people rocked up, each paying two shillings and sixpence. The unexpected turnout caused a solid three-hour traffic jam of carriages on London Bridge – at the time the only way to cross the Thames around that stretch of the river.
This boggles my mind: I’m trying to think of pop stars, let alone classical composers, that could today command a paying audience of over twelve thousand people for a rehearsal. It just goes to show how central this music used to be to audiences of all backgrounds; and how the label of ‘classical’ or ‘popular’ is so nonsensical, so restricting, so pointlessly alienating. Popular music, surely, is just stuff people like to listen to; back in the day, everyone liked listening to this.’
Music recommendation from Clemmie Burton-Hill, Year of Wonder