In recognition of this week’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Elizabeth de Brito walks us through composers throughout history who have dedicated their work to royalty
As our beloved Queen celebrates her remarkable 70 years on the throne, we take a look at some of the classical music written for royalty across the centuries and around the world.
Elisabeth Jacquet of the War – 1665-1729
Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was one of many female composers to enjoy the royal patronage of the Sun King of France himself. Louis XIV created an incredible artistic center at Versailles, filled with many of the greatest composers, musicians, singers and poets of the time. A former child prodigy who grew up at the court of Versailles, Jacquet de la Guerre became a famous composer, harpsichordist and teacher. Almost all of his work is dedicated to Louis XIV, including his set of 6 violin sonatas. They were published in 1707 but may have been written as early as 1695.
George Frederic Handel – 1685-1759
Beyond France, many composers from the Baroque and Classical eras found employment in the royal courts across Europe. Of music written for royalty, the pieces that are perhaps best known and loved by British audiences are those written by German-born composer George Frederic Handel, for King George II. His four coronation hymns include Zadok the Priest, included at every coronation since. He also wrote his perennial classic Music for the Royal Fireworks, written for the king in 1749, to celebrate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle.
Jose Nunes Garcia 1767-1830
Born to parents of mixed African and European ancestry, Brazilian composer and priest José Nunes Garcia was one of the first classical composers in the Americas, when Brazil was a Portuguese colony. José Nunes Garcia rose through the ranks and in 1808 Prince Dom Jean VI appointed Garcia Master of Music of the Royal Chapel, with this title Garcia also became the first official court musician of the Kingdom of Portugal.
As Music Master of the Royal Chapel, José Nunes Garcia wrote more than 70 works for various royal occasions, his Missa de Sao Pedro de Alcantara was offered to the Prince in 1809.
You can listen to the Coro de Câmera Pro-Arte performance by Garcia Missa de Sao Pedro de Alcantara here.
Yoko Kanno – born in 1963
One of Japan’s most esteemed living composers. While revered by jazz fans around the world for her iconic score to the animated series Cowboy Bebop, Yoko Kanno has written in a variety of genres throughout her illustrious career, penning numerous movie and game soundtracks. video, classical music, electronic music and pop songs. In 2019 his classic suite water ray was written for the ascension of Emperor Naruhito of Japan. Kanno led the first during the ascension ceremony, attended by the Emperor and Empress.
Frederik Magle – Born in 1977
Contemporary Danish composer and organist Frederic Magle has had a close professional relationship with the Danish royal family for over two decades, writing a stream of brilliant works for various royal occasions. These include his organ piece Lys på din vej!, dedicated to newborn Prince Nikolai for his christening in 1999, Magle also performed at the event and later orchestrated the piece. The Danish royal family then orders its symphonic suite cantable in 2004, on poems by Prince Henrik, for the 75e birthday. And in 2020 his Fanfare for the Royal Danish Orchestra was written for Queen Margarethe’s 80e birthday.
Hamdan Al Shuaily – alive (date of birth unknown)
Sultan Qaboos of Oman was a great lover of classical music, so much so that in 1985 he founded the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra (ROSO). Initially composed of gifted children, the orchestra has since grown into a renowned professional ensemble. Sultan Qaboos commissioned many composers from around the world to write pieces for the orchestra and nurture Oman’s burgeoning local talent. In 2007 ROSO had its European premiere in Berlin, where the Omani composer and conductor Hamdan Al Shuaily created his symphonic piece A Blessed Renaissance, combining traditional Omani folk music with Western compositional techniques. The piece, commissioned by the Sultan, is a spectacular musical journey through the Sultan’s reign, tracing the country’s development from 1970 to the present day.
William Walton -1902-1983
Finally, we come to music written for our own beloved monarch. During her glorious 70 years on the throne, reams of incredible music have been written for her, by many of our most renowned composers, from Benjamin Britten to Judith Weir, the Queen’s current Master of Music. British composer William Walton wrote the march Orb and Scepter especially for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, receiving the rare privilege of being allowed to dedicate the piece directly to her Majesty. Walton had also previously written the classic Imperial Crown for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, in 1937.
Broadcaster, writer and musicologist Elizabeth de Brito is the fsub-producer and executive producer of The Daffodil Perspectivea classical music podcast and platform designed to help listeners discover marginalized composers.