Apart from Handel, opera and Rossini, what did the Georgians do for classical music?

17 October 2014, 17:01 | Updated: 6 January 2017, 14:45

It has been said the Hanoverian kings didn't make much of a cultural impact on Britain – but is that true?

- What did the Georgians do for classical music?

- Well, they were keen opera buffs
King George I loved the opera, attending scores of them. In the 1726-1727 season alone, he saw Handel's Admeto 19 times. The King also liked concerts and paid a £1,000 subscription to the Royal Academy of Opera.

- Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That's true.

- And Handel’s Water Music
On 17 July 1717, George I requested a concert on the Thames. Alongside the royal barge, another contained about 50 musicians who performed Handel's Water Music. The King liked it so much he ordered it to be repeated at least three times, both on the trip upstream to Chelsea and on the return, until he landed again at Whitehall. 

Handel Water Music

- All right, I'll grant you that their support of opera and Handel are two things that the Georgians did...

- And Zadok the Priest!
The first piece of music ever played on Classic FM was originally a coronation anthem composed by Handel, one of four composed for the coronation of George II in 1727 (and sung at every subsequent British coronation).

- Well yes obviously Zadok the Priest. Zadok the Priest goes without saying. But apart from their support of opera, Handel and Zadok the Priest...

- They were keen musicians themselves...
George II's eldest son, Frederick Prince of Wales was a significant supporter of music and played the bass viol and cello. He was painted playing music with his sisters.

Frederick Prince of Wales sisters music 
- ...they inspired great works by John Stanley…
In 1760, John Stanley composed an ode in memory of George II and a dramatic pastoral oratorio Arcadia on the occasion of George III’s wedding.  As Master of the King’s Band of musicians, Stanley composed many New Year and Birthday odes to the King.

 - ... and they commissioned the Music for the Royal Fireworks
King George II asked Handel write the music for the fireworks in London's Green Park on 27 April 1749. It was to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

- Oh yes! True! Music for the Royal Fireworks is something we'd really miss if it hadn't been for the Georgians.

- Multi-racial performers!
George Bridgetower was a violin prodigy of West Indian/German origins. The Prince Regent – later George IV - took an interest in Bridgetower and sponsored his continuing musical education. The violinist played in the Prince’s orchestra in Brighton and London.

George Bridgetower violinist

- They championed Rossini!
Rossini arrived in Britain for the first time in December 1823. Immediately King George IV summoned him to Brighton. Rossini was unwell but the King was persistent. After more than a fortnight, Rossini was finally wheeled in a bath chair into the King's presence. "He was the most amiable of all the many monarchs I have known," Rossini said of George. The King was reportedly "enraptured".

Prince George looks confused

- All right... all right... but apart from keenly supporting opera, the Water Music, playing music themselves, commissioning Zadok the Priest and the Music for the Royal Fireworks, inspiring great works by John Stanley, sponsoring multi-racial performers, and championing Rossini, what did the Georgians do for classical music?

- The Messiah!